Monday, August 9, 2010

Ten Priests: All Ten See No Need for the New Translation—Your Comments, Please!

Happy Monday to one and all.

This afternoon I have the privilege of meeting with ten priests from one of the deaneries here in the Archdiocese of Chicago to facilitate a roundtable discussion. They meet regularly and over the past several years one topic of conversation has understandably been the new English translation of The Roman Missal. I have been invited in to help provide an opportunity for them to move from the complaining phase to a new phase. I have been told that "not one priest of the Deanery gives his personal approval for the need for a new translation—and there is some resentment and fear." I do not know their individual reasons for this; I do not know how long these men have been ordained nor their ages. It is something that ten of the ten do not give approval for the need for a new translation. It should be an interesting afternoon.

I am not sure exactly what it is they are expecting me to bring to their conversation. The leader of this group of priests said that they are at the point now of asking these questions: "What do we need to do to 'get on board'? What will this new translation ask of us as presiders? Is it asking something different than we are offering now as presiders?"

How would you answer these questions? Feel free to comment and I will bring your comments to the meeting this afternoon. If you are unable to place a comment below, feel free to e-mail me directly:

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Chironomo said...

Q: "What do we need to do to 'get on board'?
A: Stay informed, wait for the new translation to be promulgated, learn the texts thoroughly before using them at Mass and approach them with an attitude of joyful acceptance rather than sullen resistance.

Q; What will this new translation ask of us as presiders?
A: To proclaim the texts as presented without improvisation, addition or omission. In other words, exactly what all liturgical texts ask of the presider.

Q; Is it asking something different than we are offering now as presiders?"
A: See above.

I find it interesting that ten priests are in agreement on anything, let alone in their opposition to a new Missal translation that none of them have yet learned or made use of.

Of course, their comments are not necessarily opposition, they just don't "see the need" for a new translation, whatever that means. What would they say was the "need" for the current translation, seeing as there could have been literally an infinite number of translations possible? Does a liturgical text have some utilitarian purpose, such that it fills a "need" and so long as it continues filling that "need" (something to read at Mass?) it is somehow immune to change?

In other words, it's a loaded question to begin with, implying that there is no "need" to change anything so long as there is currently something to use. A very strange line of reasoning in defense of texts that themselves originated from a strong desire to change...

Paul said...

I would encourage them to be honest with their Bishop about the many issues. Accountability starts with them. I would also ask them, "Where exactly is the text?" and why is everything so quiet all of the sudden? What is going on?

Liam said...

I suspect there are expectations, beliefs and assumptions behind those questions that might need teasing out and investigating to see how true they are versus how true they once were. Assumptions and beliefs are largely pre-rational, so they aren't readily susceptible to being changed by logical persuasion, but it's always good to get them out on the table.

One thing a new translation does is it makes people slow down as a practical matter. This might have the very good effect of reducing the prevalence of conversational-speed recitation, which is a baleful inheritance from the speed with which sotto voce prayers could be recited in the old Low Mass.

Another thing that happens is that the assumption that memorization makes the prayer our own. It does - but only for a while, after which the prayer is highly vulnerable to simply being rattled off. (Now, I understand there is a space for using rattled-off prayers as a kind of ostinato foundation for contemplative prayer, but that's not the kind of prayer we have in public liturgy.) Along this line, the idea that people reading their lines from missalettes is less authentic than if they listen and respond from memory is an assumption that is deeply flawed, as it profoundly disrespects natural difference in learning and sensory perception among congregants (see more on that below).

What's the expectation the priests have regarding what a "good" transition looks like? Given what I recall from the roll-out of the Missals in 1965 and 1970, and the rubrical changes a decade ago, it seems to take 3-5 years for congregations to resolve these transitions. So don't invite immediate reactions as if they are terribly relevant (they are not necessarily irrelevant, but just not of high relevance).

And, as there were at the other times of transition, there will be congregants who find the transition harder to navigate than others (for example, the elderly and those who cannot hear/read/hold a book/missalette easily) and understand that some congregants learn better by reading and others by listening - respect different learning styles.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Faithful Follower of the Blog e-mailed this comment:
Dr. Jerry,

I would encourage you to present your usual presentation on the background of why the translation is being made—and make sure you have them pray some of the new prayers out loud. You might even try chanting some of it with them (since you've indicated that often, the chant is really what transforms these texts from "foreign," "awkward," and "new," to recognizable Catholic prayers.

More broadly: I fear that in many ways, the translation is being turned into an "orthodox-vs.-progressive" showdown, and so if these priests see themselves as part of the "progressive" branch, then they might fear that they're "losing" the battle against "reactionary" forces within the Church.

All that is wrong, as you well know. The translation is more about accurately conveying the tradition of the Church to our people in English. I would encourage you to show them the DVD from the "Become One Body, One Spirit in Christ" website. It has all the great stuff about the "why."

As for what they should differently as Presiders: if I could tell every priest one thing, it would be this: please just say what the Book says for you to say and do what the Book says for you to do. There is still freedom for you, within the instructions given in the Book, for you to add special comments. But please: confine these comments to those sections! Just this morning, at the 7 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral here in my home town, our wonderful pastor— a man I deeply respect, who has a pastoral heart, and who I would classify as "center-right" in the Church's spectrum celebrated Mass. But he left out the prayer before the passing of the peace; he altered the words when he displayed the host; he didn't introduce the Lord's prayer with one of the options from the Missal; and though we /did/ say the Entrance Antiphon, we /didn't/ say the Communion antiphon.

What I would like from priests is that I can expect that the ritual and words of Holy Mass will be said as written and that the rites will performed as written. I don't mind if Father uses the alternative text (like our rector did this morning, using the "alternative opening prayer" rather than the "primary alternative prayer" since today was celebrated as a feria day). But it's just so jolting for me as a parishioner trying to "pray the Mass" for the words of the Mass to keep changing.

I realize that this is the same objection that some are raising to the new translation, but to that point I say:

(1) We are part of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church
(2) The Roman Rite is the same for all Roman Rite Catholics in the world
(3) We're supposed to be praying the same Mass as all the other Roman
Rite Catholics in the world
(4) In order to pray the same Mass, we have to use the same words
(5) The official version of the words for Mass are from the Latin typical edition
(6) If our "translation" of the words into English differs so much from the Latin that we are praying a different Mass, we have lost the universality of the Mass
(7) Then we become a sort of "English-Rite" as a sub-rite within the Catholic Church
(8) We lose the connection of our prayer with those of the French-, Spanish-, German-, Chinese-, and all the other myriad languages that are used
(9) This is true for both the translation itself and for Father's proclamation of the prayer

So to boil it down: To pray with the Church, our written prayers must conform to the universal prayer of the Church; to pray the Universal Prayer of the Church, we need to pray the prayer as it's written.

I hope that helps.

I would be interested to hear (1) your reaction to my thoughts; (2) whether you think what I've said will be helpful; and (3) the "aftermath" of the priests reaction to the new translation after your presentation.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...
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Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...
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Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...
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Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...
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