Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Translation Thursday: A Little Less Hope Today

New Translation Thursday has rolled around again. Welcome.

As most of you know (because you read other blogs), the publishers have received the final version of the Order of Mass. I have had the chance to begin looking more carefully at the text. After all my months traveling around and sharing the musical settings of the peoples' parts of the Mass with lots and lots of people, you know that my own approach to the new text has shifted from anxiety to hope.

After having read some of the texts, I need to re-issue my own call that we begin to pray for our bishops and priests; those whose responsibility it will be to pray and proclaim these newly translated texts. Some of these prayers are close to impossible to convey. I have sat down with these texts, praying them aloud over and over again. Once I capture some of the new internal structure, for instance, the insertion of the words "O Lord, we pray" after the supplication (in the prayers over the people), I find myself being able to proclaim the meaning more clearly. This takes time and energy. Sometimes, though, once through this new construction, I get lost as I stumble over some of the English words used to translate the Latin. For instance, the word "compunction" appears in at least two of these prayers over the people; a word that is not in common use in our vocabulary. I fear that celebrants will avoid many of these prayers and choose ones that they feel they cam proclaim easily. And this is lamentable. What I had hoped would be a translation that would inspire celebrants may become a translation that celebrants avoid or change on their own in order to transmit the meaning. Of course, we do not yet have a direct experience of the praying of these texts. My hope is that bishops and priests will do their very best with these texts. There are some texts that will be too difficult, too awkward, and too confusing.

Some people have said to me, "Oh don't worry about those prayers. Catholics don't really listen to them anyway." Ug. Isn't one of the main driving forces behind this new way of translation a move to create a sacral vernacular that will be inspirational rather than banal, evocative rather than flat, beautiful rather every-day? If celebrants avoid the use of these prayers over the people, then what was the whole point of engaging in this project?

Folks, we have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us. I so sincerely want this moment to be one of renewal and rediscovery of the treasury that is the prayer of the Roman Rite. I am still hopeful, just a little less so today.

On a lighter note, some of us gather for an annual Christmas photo here at WLP. It began as an "East Coast" photo because, strange as it seems, four editors were working in cubicles on the east side of the building and we were all originally from the East Coast of the United States. So, here is the 2010 photo.

These editors are kind enough to invite me back to "Editors Row" for this photo. We post them each year and this is the tenth year. Maybe some time I'll post the 2001 photo; my how we have all aged so gracefully!

Let's keep one another in prayer as these Advent days wane. Please feel free to comment on my opinions above. I always find the conversation helpful as we move through this.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


John Hinchcliffe said...

Long-time reader, first time commenter.

With respect, I don't think "compunction" is a good example of what may be bad in the new translation.

The concern that the syntax of the new translation may be hopelessly tangled, with hopelessly ambiguous pronoun references - that I get. That the individual words are too hard - that I don't get.

A knock against Catholics is that "they don't read the bible". Are we going to add, "they don't read the dictionary"?

(I have dealt with people who can't really use a dictionary, because they can't really spell.)

Top Google search result for compunction:

A feeling of guilt or moral scruple that follows the doing of something bad: "spend the money without compunction".

Sample Lenten homily: "Who knows what the word compunction means? Well, I was unsure myself, then I googled it, and it means [definition]. And we all know that during this Lenten season, as we do penance, we try to develop our sense of compunction, so that we can become more aware of anything that separates us from God. We hear that in the Gospel reading today, when Jesus says... We definitely see that in the life of [insert penitent saint]. And our Catholic tradition has always emphasized the importance of compunction by, for example, [insert traditional prayer or devotional practice.] And at the end of Mass, I'm going to pray a prayer over all of you, asking God to increase your compunction. Listen for that word, and thank God for the grace he gives us in so many ways, even the grace to be sorry for anything that draws us farther away from him. Because he LOVES US SO MUCH!!!


Thank you for everything you are doing mentally, financially and emotionally to serve the Catholic Church and her members. I will renew my prayers for the bishops and priests who will be working to implement this new translation.


John Hinchcliffe

Fr John Farley said...


Thank you for your continuing prayers for presiders and teachers. From everything I've read, we're going to need them.

The first year of use will be key in figuring out what in the MR3 is helpful. For the first year, I intend to hew as closely as possible to what is in the text. I will not, however, be throwing out my current Sacramentary.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Thank you for reading this blog. I did exactly as you did when I came across "compunction," looking up its definition, which did help me understand the prayer. And I totally agree that a homily could focus on this; in order for people to understand the prayer when later prayed at Mass. Preaching on these new texts will be critical for the implementation.

Kevin Keil said...

One issue that I have not seen addressed anywhere is the effect that the "richer" vocabulary on the new translation might have on members of our community for whom English is not a first language. In Texas, many members of our parishes participate at English masses for their children's sake, who speak english very well, but their own level of english is minimal. How will these parent's experiences at masses be changed by the addition of words that native english speakers have to look up? Will the words of mass just become noise with little meaning to them? How can we help them to prepare for these changes?

Siobhan said...

1. I didn't know Santa was working at World Library.

2. I thought he was from the North Pole.

John Black said...

The teaching that we do will be the bridge to this translation. I'm planning Mass setting sessions for the parish, during which I'll address the poetry, flow, meaning, and those pesky words requiring the Oxford.

I'm hanging in the wings on the rest of the teaching. If no efforts present themselves, I'll take that ball and run with it, as well.

It is our duty to provide parishioners with an orientation to the new. That orientation and the opportunity for catechesis are gifts to us, who often lament the absence of teaching opportunities.

I pray for all of our efforts, because the preparation and study we engage in will be what makes this new translation a smoother bridge.