Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: Changes in Attitudes and a Challenge for Celebrants

Welcome to this latest installment of "New Translation Tuesday."

While in the Dioceses of Orlando, San Jose, and Birmingham in the past few weeks, I have begun to notice that, as people begin to get used to the idea that the texts of the Mass will be changing within the year, a level of acceptance and, in many cases, excitement, has begun to be evinced. There are those who remain quite resistant to the changes, but I am seeing more and more people taking on an attitude of acceptance. When I share WLP's new and revised musical settings of the Mass, people sing these settings with interest and energy. People who are used to a steady diet of contemporary music at Mass are responding quite positively to the chant settings. In the sessions in which the majority of the people in attendance are regular "pew Catholics"—not musicians—they are stumbling over the new words when I use a familiar setting that has been revised. Over and over again, when I play the introduction to the revised Sanctus from the Proulx adaptation of the Vermulst People's Mass, and remind the people that they need to follow the music and the new words very carefully, they invariably sing it the way they already know it—the way that is in their Catholic bones. This has been quite eye-opening for me, for it has occurred in settings filled with musicians as well. Then, when we sing the very same new text set to, say, the Janco setting from his Mass of Wisdom, the newly translated text flows beautifully. And it is in these moments that I see people turn from a hesitancy about the new translation to an attitude of acceptance and excitement.

The implementation, accompanied by good catechesis and good pastoral leadership (by musicians, liturgists, clergy, and catechists) should happen—I believe—quite smoothly, largely due to the sheer beauty of the new musical settings of the texts. And this moment should not just be about teaching new settings; more importantly it needs to be about teaching about the liturgy itself and what we actually do when we celebrate the paschal mystery week in and week out.

So, as this season of hope continues to unfold, I remain hopeful that congregations across the United States, when well prepared, will accept the changes with perhaps just a small amount of frustration. Time and experience singing and praying these texts will tell, of course.

Everywhere where I have been in the past several months, I have urged the laity to pray fervently for their bishops and priests. This is the group, by and large, that has the greatest challenge ahead. The development of a "sacral vernacular," as Liturgiam Authenticam puts it, is not something that will necessarily happen overnight. Bishops and priests will need to spend much time preparing the newly translated texts for proclamation.

I am reminded of my own pastor who, week in and week out, chooses to pray Eucharistic Prayer III at Mass. With the Sacramentary open before him, he lifts his arms, his eyes, and his whole heart to God as he prays the text, word for word, by heart, without looking at the text once. I am drawn into the prayer. Some celebrants have trouble with communicating the direction of the Eucharistic Prayer. Some add gestures and glances toward the congregation, as if it is being prayed somehow to us, when it is clearly not. My pastor will have a challenge ahead of him when the new texts are implemented. My hope, of course, is that he spends the time committing these newly translated texts to memory so that he can continue to model the fact that this prayer is addressed to God. It may take some time, but I hope that all celebrants will see this moment as time to renew and, in some cases, correct their celebrating styles.

Feel free to comment. And I hope you have a blessed Advent day.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Anonymous said...

Jerry, the upbeat tone of your post has really brightened my day! Glad to hear your audiences are receptive to the new words and music! It seems quite logical, in retrospect, that modified words in a familiar setting would cause stumbles, kind of like when some insist on saying the Our Father or Hail Mary with “you” and “your” rather than the ingrained “thou” and “thy”. Some things are just too deeply absorbed to easily change. Keep up the good work!

Paul H. said...

Thank you for your reflection on the priest's orientation during prayer. I usually close my eyes or look at the crucifix during the priest's prayers, so that I'm not distracted if he is looking at the congregation when he prays. It can sometimes make one forget that the priest is praying to God when it looks like he's addressing his words to us.

It's good to hear that people are overall very receptive to the new translation--this is thanks in great part to catechesis like you are providing for so many people. Thanks Jerry!

John Black said...

Bravo! You've struck at the heart of two mind-occupiers of mine. The praying, rather than reading to the congregation, of the prayers of the Mass is, I think, a small detail but a HUGE way to be more effective as presider.

And, the affirmation of my choosing the path of new settings is always good.

Good news, Jerry. As always, thanks for your efforts.