Welcome to this edition of "New Translation Thursday."
Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the "New Translation Tuesday" and "Thursday" posts. I took some time this morning to look back. I am offering you some snippets from each of the last twelve months.
How will Catholics in the pews react to the new translation? When told that these new texts are more faithful to the Latin original, will they care? Since many have not sung the official texts for years, why would they see the logic in the argument about fidelity to the Latin?
Let's remember that the Catholic Church is made up of people like you and me, and people like my parents, people who strive every day to live the words "When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory." In the new translation, these same people will be striving to live the same mystery of our faith in these words: "When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again." Proclaiming the death of the Lord, and all the meaning that that phrase unfolds in the lived Catholic experience, is what this Catholic life is all about. Let's not forget that; let's not forget the center as these days, months, and years unfold.
Those of us entrusted with the pastoral care of all of those God entrusts to us have a difficult job ahead of us. We need to care for those who will see this new translation as a move in the wrong direction; we need to care for those who will see this new translation as move in the right direction. And, we will need to care for those whose viewpoint falls somewhere in the middle; these are, I believe, Catholics whose engagement in liturgical matters does not mean as much as perhaps our own engagement does. My great hope is that the new translation will be a time to wake up those who have settled into the great malaise. Perhaps this will be the opportunity to help them engage in what is actually being celebrated week in and week out: the paschal mystery.
I have always had empathy for people whose language of prayer—the language they use to pray to God in those deeply personal and contemplative moments—is not necessarily the language they are asked to pray when parishes recite and sing the liturgical texts at Mass. What effect will the new English translation have on people whose first language is not English? Some of you would respond that there is an easy answer: sing and pray in Latin. This might be helpful in large multicultural gatherings of people who do not share any common language. Does replacing one "second " language with another "second" language really address the issue?
Sure, there will be a time of transition, a period of liminality. It will just be natural for many of us to get all worked up about the new translation. And, if the newly translated texts become a wall of impenetrability—if they truly become a block that prevents God's action in the liturgy from reaching our hearts and minds—we will need to speak up; we will need to talk with our pastors and bishops about this.
So, today I am taking a deep breath. There is indeed much work of preparation to be done and I will continue to focus on the new translation every Tuesday and Thursday. Everybody, take a deep breath with me, too.
The question that kept coming to me as I tossed and turned that night was this: "Have you made my God more distant with your new translation—have these new words stressed the transcendence of God to the diminishment of the immanent?" In other words, as I am shaped by a re-shaped lex orandi, will my own belief, my own lex credendi be reshaped in such a way that I feel more of a distance from my God, who became flesh in Christ, and sent the Spirit as a companion on my life's faith journey?
Folks, as a Catholic publisher, owned by a dedicated Catholic family, today I am inclined to look out at someone and cry, "This is a fine mess you've gotten us into." Only I don't know toward whom my frustration should be directed. Frankly, there is that hesitant part of me—the brutally honest part, really—that believes that this frustration should be directed beyond the grave to the one that many are trying to call "the great." For all that Pope John Paul II did for the Church, I wonder if his lasting legacy will be a more divided, more polarized Church. Only time will tell.
Seriously, think about the implications if we do not "get" the text by the end of July. And think about what it means when the situation at hand implies that the conferences of bishops are very much in the dark. I am left wondering, "What kind of Church is this?" Aren't we all called to try to be on the same page? Aren't there transparent processes in place so that, following them, we all have a sense that the conclusions reached are ones that have been the fruit of scholarly dialogue and sound pastoral debate?
We were quite surprised when the August 20, 2010 text arrived, only to find that there were changes to these already approved texts.
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.
And, through all of this, I want to say that these prayers are more important than ever. I, for one, want to "to love the things of heaven and hold fast to what will endure." My opinion? The 2008 text, at least for this one prayer for this one particular Sunday, looks like it will endure. But not the 2010 text.
Whether we want to admit it or not, these prayers have the potential to transform hearts. I believe to the bottom of my heart that when these texts are proclaimed, God's work of salvation continues in the here and now. I, for one, need these texts to do that for me, for my mom and dad, for my siblings, for those with whom I worship, and for the entire Church. And for that salvation to continue, the meaning of the texts must be able to be proclaimed and understood.
Folks, if you have been following developments over the last few weeks, you know that there has been a major snag in the process of the the new English translation of The Roman Missal. Simply put, there have been adjustments made to the text that the bishops of the English-speaking conferences spent years working on and had sent to Rome. Apparently, there are mistranslations, some theological blurring, and generally a move away from the principles laid down inLiturgiam Authenticam in some of the translations. I am joining my voice with the voices of those who have expressed the hope that these issues will be addressed and resolved quickly and thoroughly. It is hard to find anyone who is happy about all of this right now.
It's been quite a year, readers, hasn't it?
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.