Thursday, November 4, 2010

New Translation Thursday: Muster the Memory

Could it be "New Translation Thursday" already?

When I began these weekly Tuesday and Thursday installments (it will be one year on November 10), I never could have imagined that we would be where we are right now. On November 10, 2009, in the first installment of "New Translation Tuesday," I wrote this:

"As you know, the US bishops will be voting next week on the completed translation and, hopefully, sending it to Rome. Then the waiting game begins. We wait for Rome's recognitio, or really Rome's approval of the new translation. How long will this take? I've heard everywhere from one month to several years. There are texts in Rome awaiting recognitio that have languished there for many years. But, we are also told that the pope is keenly interested in having the new translation approved as quickly as possible. So, we wait and see. I hope you can appreciate the impact that all of this has on a publisher of resources for praying and singing the liturgy. On Tuesdays and Thursdays in the weeks and months to come, I'll share more with you. For now, let's remember that what is being re-translated from the Latin is what draws us all together in Christ."

" . . . what draws us all together in Christ." From what I have seen and heard, the process that has led up to the new English translation of the Missale Romanum has done very little to draw us all together in Christ. Conflicts have arisen; factions have drawn lines of demarcation; blogs have arisen that give people a chance to talk honestly—and sometimes with invective—about the translation. Articles have been written, keynotes and workshops have been presented—from all kinds of perspectives.

Folks, I for one have been living with an inner conflict about all of this. I am a dedicated and practicing Roman Catholic, with perhaps too many years of theological and liturgical training. There is that part of me that, at first, was very hesitant to accept change of this magnitude. I was conflicted because I believe that the Spirit is at work in the Church, even in something that I didn't necessarily or personally think was something positive for the people of God. And that conflict eased the more I realized that our current translation did need improvement. Now, those inner conflicts have taken hold once more. I, myself, am feeling not at all drawn to Christ through all of this.

Will whatever surfaces as our "new translation" indeed draw us all together in Christ? From where I sit, it is looking less and less likely.

I am feeling like the one who wrote psalm 69 (of course not to the same degree):

But I am afflicted and in pain; let your saving help protect me, God,
That I may praise God's name in song and glorify it with thanksgiving.
My song will please the LORD more than oxen, more than bullocks with horns and hooves:
"See, you lowly ones, and be glad; you who seek God, take heart!
For the LORD hears the poor, does not spurn those in bondage.
Let the heavens and the earth sing praise, the seas and whatever moves in them!"
God will rescue Zion; rebuild the cities of Judah. God's servants shall dwell in the land and possess it;
it shall be the heritage of their descendants; those who love God's name shall dwell there.

Even in the midst of exile and ruin, the psalmist still mustered the memory of God's saving works. Praying with this psalm helps me put all of this translation mess into perspective. I am not trying to be the wearer of the rose-colored glasses here, my friends. Like the psalmist does so often, we need to name the frustration; we need to voice our anger and lament. Then we need to muster the memories of what God has accomplished.

What we need to realize, of course, is that this collective memory of God's saving works is enshrined in words. And this is the most serious issue we are facing, most especially those of us who pray in the English language at the liturgy. Will future generations of Roman Catholic English speakers suffer from a diminishment of the collective memory, because the intelligibility of our texts has somehow been diluted?

These are very serious questions. I certainly didn't think that these would be my questions a year after the bishops of our country approved what they believed to be the English translation.

Let's hold on to our hats.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


John Black said...

Jerry, I share your most recent grammatical concerns, certainly. Our faith tells us that the process is indeed Spirit-led. We must pray that all involved are listening to that guidance. Life events of recent years have strengthened my faith that our lives are of divine design. The reasons for all become apparent only in the culmination of all the events. Some good can be mined from all happenings. I believe that the final product--while certainly imperfect--will enable us to revitalize those whom we serve. Gotta Sing Gotta PRAY...and trust in faith.

Terri Pastura said...

Jerry, Thanks, once again, for an articulate and heart-felt rendering of what many of us are feeling. My prayers are joined with yours, though, I name it a bit differently. This change of collective memory comes to a U.S. in an age steeped in individualism. The sense of we as "the Church" has lost ground to a sense of what are you doing to "my Church". Though frustrating, I'm trusting that this delay is God's way of giving us the patience we need to show others as we work through this next step. God bless you for your all you do to serve!