Thursday, September 30, 2010

New Translation Thursday: Hope Chiseled

Hello all. Welcome to this installment of "New Translation Thursday."

As I mentioned yesterday, we did receive some news from the Bishops Committee on Divine Worship on Tuesday of this week. Not much new to report. There was one item that has garnered lots of interest and opinions over on Pray Tell. That was the decision from the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome that the texts of the celebrant's prayers in the new English translation of the Missale Romanum not be pointed. For those of you who don't know what pointing is, it's pretty simple. Pointing is a system that is employed to mark the texts of the prayer so that the celebrant, who is chanting the prayer, knows when to move the pitch, based on the given formulaic tone for the chanting of the prayers. This would have greatly assisted priests in the singing of the Mass. I agree with those who think that this is a very unfortunate development, or rather "undevelopment." We are to assume that this decision is probably based on the wishes of the congregation that editions of the missal in the vernacular look as close to the original Latin missal as possible, and the Missale Romanum has no pointing of these texts.

I know that my own liturgical life has been enriched by my own pastor's choice to chant the sign of the cross and the greeting, as well as the preface dialogue and the preface at Mass on Sunday, as well as portions of the Eucharistic Prayers during some seasons of the Church year. This is a uniquely Catholic sound in my own ears. Where else, in human communication are we chanting at each other? It lifts the texts to a more profound level; into what sounds like a more sacred realm. Anything, anything that we can do to support our bishops and priests in the singing of the Mass should be a top priority. The Vatican congregation must have its own motivations for the decisions made about the missal; clearly it seems they have missed the boat on this one.

Is anyone else who reads this blog as frustrated as I am about all of this? I know that in another year, we will actually have the missal in hand (although that is beginning to sound like a less realistic expectation), and that what we have is what we have. And we know that the Church has gone through this kind of thing before. Perhaps it was easier when communication was not so instant; when we didn't have e-mail, when there were no blogs, when there was no instant posting to web sites. Perhaps before all of this technology the process was as complex as it is now, with its unexplainable and sometimes secretive twists and turns. Maybe not knowing about all of that was a better thing. But this is a new world with so much at our disposal to assist God's people.

Still hopeful here, but that hope is getting chiseled away bit by bit. Thank God that God is God and we are not.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


byte228 said...

Sometimes it feels like the powers that be want the new Missal to fail. One can only hope that the Holy Spirit keeps blowing into the Vatican.

JonoShea1 said...

I'm also disappointed by this development. I say this as someone very supportive of the new translation.

Nevertheless, might this might be an opportunity for your company or someone else to provide something like a study edition setting the orations? The integrity of the Missal itself is preserved, while there might be a way for priests to learn to sing the orations (even if this means they would need to study ahead of time).

Charles Culbreth said...

You didn't get the impression that not a few folks were pretty PO'd about this latest gaffe over at PT combox? Like moi?
I think the only positive about this latest turn is that the motley crew of "us" became galvanized via iandignation over this incomprehensible idiocy.
To your knowledge, has any other vernacular been subjected to the political machinations and hoop jumping on the part of the Curia?
But, I trust our priests to keep the sung mass, well, sung!
I treasure the triage of scripture, tradition and the magisterium like any faithful catholic. But manaical prohibitions, not just omitting the pointing, but inferring that orations ought not to be cantillated, makes we want to catch up on my Thoreau; ie. civil disobedience.

Anonymous said...

I have been frustrated for a long time but still trying not to read anything sinister in what Rome is trying to do. I have given them the benefit of the doubt that they truly want to help us pray better and deepen our relationship with God. HOWEVER, more and more it becomes apparent that this is really an issue of power and roll-back to pre-Vatican II theology and liturgy.....Margie

Chironomo said...


How does this constitute a "rollback" to a Pre-Vatican II Theology? And how does this in any way constitute a weilding of "power" Neither of these is in any way exemplified by this decision, which is a rather poor decision at that. I would guess that there may be some good, or at least explainable reason why this decision was made and that we simply don't know what that reason is. I doubt that it was a desire to return to a pre-Vatican II theology.

Liam said...


It may not be "theology" in the best sense, but it clearly hearkens to a magical view of Latin and Latinity, as it were, that prevailed in the preconciliar period.

This is nothing good to notice about this decision. And I try hard to find the gold in the mire.

Chironomo said...

Maybe I missed something then. What was the reason given by Rome for not pointing the texts? I don't mean what reason are we guessing... I mean what is the actual reason given? I don't see how deciding to not point the ENGLISH texts in the NEW MISSAL can point to a pre-conciliar view of Latin as magical.

Liam said...

Rome nixed the proposal to include pointing in English because the Latin edition does not contain pointing. That is magical thinking about Latin.

peregrinus_sg said...

Assuming that the reason given is indeed the reason stated by the Apostolic See, the opinion thrown up by some interpreters that this resulted from a 'magical' view of Latin is the interpreters' own private interpretation. I don't see that the latter necessarily follows from the former.

While I agree that the decision is, because of the good work done by ICEL, lamentable, it does grant freedom (for better or worse) for Priests to chant/sing the collects to different tones/tunes. As the Latin Missale grants freedom for Priests to use various chant tones, the Curia perhaps wants the official English texts to grant similar freedom. Yes, pointing the texts help most Priests sing the orations to some basic tone, but it can also be a handicap to Priests trying more solemn tones on certain occasions. I use the British Divine Office, and the Psalms are pointed for the Gelineau tones, but I don't always use the Gelineau tones when I chant the psalms and it can get confusing sometimes when the stresses are different - and these are psalms that I sing once every four weeks. Unless there should only be one tone for chanting the orations, I think I can understand why the Apostolic See decided, unfortunately, at this point in time, against pointing the texts in the Missal.

Remember that the Roman Curial is not generally at the forefront of the sung liturgy. Even for the Latin chants, the works of others, notably the Monks of Solesmes, are far more important than what comes out from the curia offices. They may be behind in terms of singing the liturgy, but there's no need to accuse them of having dysfunctional mentalities.

Liam said...

Oh puhleez.

There is a simple solution to the problem you posit: making clear that the pointings are not normative, but merely offered to help.

Real easy. Eliminates the basis for your proferred rationalization.