Thursday, April 14, 2011

New Translation Thursday: The Heart and Mind of a Fictitious Bishop

Another "New Translation Thursday" has dawned.

I wanted to begin by sharing a few photos I took in Florida over the weekend. This is a shot of the beautiful Saint Timothy Catholic Church in Lutz, Florida, a parish in the diocese of Tampa-Saint Petersburg.

And here is a blurry photo I took of those gathered at Saint Timothy's for the WLP music reading session:

Thanks to all who made such beautiful music on Friday evening and Saturday morning.

We have received some prototypes or "dummy" copies of the editions of The Roman Missal, Third Edition, being published here at the J. S. Paluch Company/World Library Publications. Just wanted you to get a sneak peek. We are working on some adjustments in the green foil stamping that appears on our deluxe edition and we are re-aligning the cover images to be more centered on the cover. The interior pages, of course, are blank, since we do not yet have final proofs. But it was a unique experience actually to pick the book up, work with the ribbons and tabs, run my fingers along the gold edges of the pages of the deluxe edition, get a feel for the weight of the book, run my fingers into the embossed florentine scrollwork on the covers; the scrollwork is inspired by art of the Vatican Apostolic Library that will grace the interior pages. So here is a photo I took of the two WLP editions placed on the table here in my office at WLP:

Controversy about the new translation continues to swirl. From the diagnostics that I am able to perform on "Blogger," I know that many of you regularly visit this blog after spending time over at PrayTell and ChantCafe. I visit those sites on a regular basis as well. There are thousands of people regularly visiting blogs like these. And the real gift of the blogosphere is the ability to share thoughts, feelings, and opinions.

I often wonder what percentage of the English-speaking Catholic population is following these blogs closely, and offering comments. Obviously, the percentage must be quite tiny. For the vast majority of Catholics, the new translation has yet to become something of interest. As I said in an earlier post, this came as quite a surprise when I was in Florida this past weekend. I asked the musicians about their familiarity with the newly translated texts and at least 90% said that the session I was leading provided the first opportunity for them to see the new texts. I guess I shouldn't be shocked at all. For these Catholics, the new translation is simply not an issue that is burning, at least not for now. For those of us who count ourselves among the liturgical "geeks," of course, the new translation is beyond a burning issue, it is a raging inferno!

The recent New York Times article about the new translation got me to thinking again about how the mainstream media is going to "cover" the implementation of the new translation. I hope that reporters do their homework and get their facts straight. I hope they include all of the facts of the unfolding of the translation process as we know them. To say that this new translation of the missal was approved by all the bishops of the English-speaking world and then that very translation received its final approval from Rome would be a lie. We all know that substantial changes were made to the texts approved by the English-speaking bishops. To gloss over this would be a mis-interpretation of the facts. It is my hope that reporters don't simply hang around outside the doors of Catholic churches on November 27, asking questions like "What do you think of the changes? Are you upset at the Church? Do you think the Church should be focusing on more important issues?" While it will be important to hear the initial reactions of Catholics, it is going to take quite a bit of time to see if this new translation actually fosters a renewal within the Church; if this new translation indeed becomes a watershed moment of liturgical catechesis as so many are hoping for; if this new translation actually brings people closer to Jesus Christ.

It is my hope that reporters make appointments with this country's bishops, seeking clarification about the  translation process and reporting the facts as facts. I often try to put myself in the shoes of a diocesan bishop, one who had decided early on that this translation process was too important to ignore; a bishop who took each of the various texts home to the people of his diocese during the long process of corrections and edits; one who worked with his Office of Worship to try to gain wisdom from the liturgical experts, pastoral musicians, pastors, and lay people of the diocese; one who engaged in the process wholeheartedly and was unafraid to report to his brother bishops what he was hearing from the flock entrusted to his care. When the final final translated text came back from the Vatican, a text that was quite different from the one he voted to approve, a text that he had worked so long and hard to help fashion, what must have been his response?  From what I have seen and heard, this bishop most probably had a moment of deep regret and then engaged in humble subjugation, knowing full well that his promise of obedience is at the heart of his ministry as priest and bishop. After all, this bishop must be a leader in a Church that has its triumphs and its flaws. This bishop is now trying to help his people see November 27, 2011 as a real moment of hope, of renewal, and of catechesis. But I still wonder if, when alone in prayer, this bishop doesn't sometimes feel the need to cry out to God in rightful anger, since what he and the people entrusted to his care had worked on for so long somehow was changed.

I know in my heart that every bishop wants the best for his people. So, our bishops are moving forward with this translation, hoping that it does create a great moment of catechesis in their dioceses. As you know, I share this hope. But I also share the hope that we will have open ears and open hearts to the actual experience of these new texts when they are actually prayed and actually sung in parishes throughout the English-speaking world. Dialogue must occur among bishops and archbishops, pastors and deacons, lay ecclesial ministers, those in monasteries, those living the consecrated life, musicians and liturgists, as well as the vast majority of Catholics whose only engagement with the Church is from their place in the liturgical assembly. Perhaps the bishop in whose shoes I placed myself harbors the hope that one day there will be an even better translation of The Missale Romanum. Perhaps he sees all of what we are going through at this moment as simply that: a moment to get through. Perhaps he sees that, after a period of actual praying and singing of this new translation, that something even more wonderful is waiting for us.

For those of us whose lives are so immersed in the liturgy, the next several years will be critically important ones. I already know of several doctoral students who are working on projects meant to gauge the impact of the new translation on Catholics. I am more than excited to know that this kind of work is already going on. These studies will be important, in addition to our own personal experience as each of us moves through this time of translation transition. Let's fasten our seatbelts, my liturgical geek friends; it's going to be an interesting ride!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Cathy Rusin said...

Thank you again, Jerry, for your dedicated work and thoughtful postings.
I was hoping to send this to you privately, but couldn't find an email link. I don't want to be nitpicking, but as a native Floridian, born and raised in St. Petersburg (but now living elsewhere), the Diocese you visited is the "Diocese of St. Petersburg", not Tampa/St. Petersburg... no matter what those folks in Tampa told you! ;-)
Many blessings.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Wow. Thanks, Cathy. My apologies to my Florida friends. Don't know where the Tampa-Saint Petersburg idea came from. Perhaps I just have "Tampa-Saint Pete" ingrained in my mind. Apologies and thanks for the correction.

Alan Hommerding said...

I'm fearing that among the initial responses we'll see/hear in both the secular media and religious media as well will be those of the "Didn't they [the bishops] have anything better to do?" variety.
I find it easier to listen to people who are critical of or cheerleading for the new translation (or the process behind it) than I do when I encounter this attitude that the prayer of the Mass isn't "important." Even as a liturgical person, I realize that liturgy isn't the ONLY important work we, the Church, undertake, but it saddens me when folks don't seem to think it's important at all - that as long as we had words for the Mass said the right way at the right time by the right person, all was fine.
My usual response to "Didn't they have anything better to do?" is usually "Well, no." The startled look I most often get is then a good starting point for the importance of this prayer in the life of the Church, and how we can use this time to help folks re-focus on the importance of the prayer of the Mass in their own spiritual lives.

Chironomo said...


Of course, the "don't they have anything better to do" canard is usually just a cover for "why isn't the church doing what I want it to do", as it is usually followed by talking points like married clergy, female priests, the priest sex-abuse scandal or any of a number of other single-issue concerns.

You're right, the appropriate answer is "Well no, they really don't have anything MORE IMPORTANT to do than properly celebrate the liturgy", although one has to reject the implied assumption that the Church is only capable of doing ONE THING at a time! I have great faith that the Church is capable of addressing the concerns of the poor, the abused and the sick and hungry of the world and simultaneously produce an English translation of the Mass.

Jeff Rexhausen said...

Thanks, Alan, for sharing this approach to latching onto a teachable moment.