Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Translation Tuesday: "Help Me to See"

Welcome to this installment of New Translation Tuesday. In response to several requests that I post the plenum I presented on Friday at the NPM convention in Louisville, I've decided to do so here. It will be published in the November issue of Pastoral Music. I hope you find this helpful. It surely is the longest post in this blog's history!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

NPM Plenum

July 22, 2011

Catechesis and the New Translation of the Roman Missal: “Help Me to See”
Jerry Galipeau, D. Min.

I have spent the better part of the last two years traveling throughout the United States, speaking with bishops, priests, deacons, diocesan leaders, liturgists, musicians, catechists, and people like me, “pew Catholics,” about the implementation of the new translation of the Missal. Every Tuesday and Thursday on my blog I have tried to share my own reflection on the new translation. I don’t know how you feel about this, but at this point, I am looking forward to November 27, 135 days from today.

To be honest with you–for the past ten months–, I have been struggling with and thinking about what to say to you today.

As a dedicated member of this association since the late 1970’s, and having attended most of the conventions over the years, I have been wondering what would be most helpful for me to say to you at this, the final plenum at the final NPM convention before the implementation of the English translation of the Third Edition of The Roman Missal. For me, as for many of us, this transition will mark the single-most important liturgical development in our ministerial lives.

For this final plenum on the new translation, NPM has asked me to talk about the way that catechesis will serve the implementation of and transition into the new translation of the missal.

I’d like to do this by looking at three areas where catechesis can serve; the first has to do with our responsibilities as parish leaders to catechize our parishioners about and into the new translation. The second involves the way that art – specifically our art, the musical arts – serves the catechetical endeavor. The third area is one I believe is perhaps vastly more important and is based on the reality that the best catechesis on the liturgy is good liturgy. But we cannot know that reality until we, as clergy and pastoral musicians, allow the liturgy to catechize us; to us reach into the depths of the mystery we celebrate in order to bring us closer to the living God.

SECTION ONE: Catechesis and Our Role as Parish Leaders

It has come as no surprise to me that authors and publishers, diocesan offices and national organizations have created a vast amount of material over the past several years to help us catechize our parishioners about the new translation of the Missal. You and I have been served well.

We have resources at our disposal from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, from Liturgy Training Publications, from ICEL, from the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, from Liturgical Press, from NPM, and from GIA, OCP, and WLP, among others. You have hopefully spent many months and an entire NPM convention discovering ways that you can use these materials to catechize the people of your parish. It would not be a good use of our time together for me to outline the specific ways and suggest specific models for you to use to assist in the catechesis that must occur for the implementation to take root. You can find these ways and models in many places.

However, from my experience throughout the United States, I would like to offer just three general principles.

1. Do not be afraid to share the actual documentation related to the translation change

2. Listen to your parishioners

3. Present a consistent message

ONE: Do not be afraid to share the actual documentation related to the change

When I first began speaking to people about the new translation, I found myself presenting my own interpretation of the two major documents that have shaped the translation process since the Second Vatican Council. After doing this at several places, I decided that Catholic people are certainly intelligent enough to see these documents for themselves and make their own interpretations. So, I began sharing pertinent paragraphs from Comme le Prevoit, (the 1969 document that helped guide the translators following the Council), paragraphs like this one.

12. c. The translator must always keep in mind that the "unit of meaning" is not the individual word but the whole passage. The translator must therefore be careful that the translation is not so analytical that it exaggerates the importance of particular phrases while it obscures or weakens the meaning of the whole.

Then, to show people the dramatic shift in translation guidelines, I began to share sections from Liturgiam Authenticam, paragraphs like these.

6. Nevertheless, it has been noted that translations of liturgical texts in various localities stand in need of improvement through correction or through a new draft. The omissions or errors which affect certain existing vernacular translations – especially in the case of certain languages – have impeded the progress of the inculturation that actually should have taken place. Consequently, the Church has been prevented from laying the foundation for a fuller, healthier and more authentic renewal.

The translation of the liturgical texts of the Roman Liturgy is not so much a work of creative innovation as it is of rendering the original texts faithfully and accurately into the vernacular language. While it is permissible to arrange the wording, the syntax and the style in such a way as to prepare a flowing vernacular text suitable to the rhythm of popular prayer, the original text, insofar as possible, must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses. Any adaptation to the characteristics or the nature of the various vernacular languages is to be sober and discreet.

When Catholics (particularly those in the pews) see the differences in the guidelines, they at least see for themselves this dramatic shift. Of course, whether or not they find the new guidelines satisfying in any way is another story. But that is not the point. The point is that it is important to reveal what John Paul II–and those with whom he surrounded himself–expressed in Liturgiam Authenticam and elsewhere: our current vernacular translation has been, in some ways, an impediment to a more authentic renewal. Again, we may not agree with this perception, but we are obliged to share these texts.


I have volunteered, as a member of my parish’s liturgy committee, to help with the catechesis and implementation of the new translation in my own parish. What we decided early on was that the committee and our parish leaders would do everything in our power to be a listening ear for our parishioners. We know that there are several people in our parish who are vehemently opposed to this new translation; they have expressed that they see it as nothing but a move toward retrenchment. A few weeks ago, one person, a member of our parish choir, sought me out before Mass and said, “I have read all the information about this new translation and I think it is nothing but a bunch of crap; a further attempt by the Vatican to control more and more of parish life and the liturgy. I, for one, plan to make my feelings known publicly.” I thanked him for telling me and I said that I hoped that the information we would be sharing together as a parish might help give him more information about the changes. I don’t think this person will ever be satisfied with the information. But, at the very least, he knows that someone has listened to him and not dismissed his thoughts and feelings.


Time and time again, across the country, I have listened to the concerns expressed by parish leaders–priests, deacons, music directors, catechetical directors. Many of them want to be able to answer parishioners’ questions simply and as helpfully as possible. One of the chief concerns is that they feel that all members of the parish staff be on the same page; there should be consistency. One of the religious sisters on the parish staff at my own parish told me that she would love it if every member of the staff could have a copy of the five most common questions about the new translation and each also had a succinct, common set of answers to those questions. My friends, there is enough polarization in the Church without our parish leaders creating more, so present a consistent message.

SECTION TWO: Catechesis/our role as musicians in this realm is really about art

My friends, at sessions for musicians on the new translation that I have led in the past two years, there is one major point that I keep stressing with these musicians. And that is something that we sometimes forget. “Playing Masses” can sometimes become utilitarian. I know this so well. When I was a full-time director of music and liturgy, too often what I did was simply play the notes. What we sometimes forget is that we are artists. And art functions in ways that can serve to catechize people at depths that no other kind of catechesis can hope to accomplish. I have found that the notes become art when I am fully aware of all that is going on in my own life.

I’ll never forget what happened one Sunday morning about fifteen years ago. At the time, my family was living through the serious illness of my sister, Joanne. Joanne had a severe and chronic progressive form of Multiple Sclerosis. It was about at that time that my little sister Joanne, who had once been a gymnast, had to accept the fact that she would never walk again; it was at that time that she was confined to a wheelchair. I remember the week that this happened. On that Sunday morning, I was driving the half-hour or so to my parish to play and sing at the 7:30 A.M. Mass. That particular Mass had been the so-called “quiet Mass” in that parish since the parish was founded. When I arrived at the parish several years earlier, it was my task to bring that Mass in line with the others and to introduce singing. There had always been leftover resentment from the many who still wanted their “quiet Mass.” So this was the kind of Mass at which I sort of just “played the notes,” without putting much of myself into it. Well, it so happened that during the preparation rite of that particular week, I was to sing and play David Haas’ You Are Mine. The parish had not yet been taught the piece, so my little solo was designed to get it into their ears before they were taught it. While I was driving to Mass that morning, all I could think about was my sister and what it would be like for her to be in a wheelchair. My heart was heavy, to say the least.

Well, I played and sang You Are Mine at that Mass. I guess I didn’t think too much about it until I reached the words in the final two verses: “All the blind will see, the lame will all run free and all will know my name,” and “I will call your name, embracing all your pain; Stand up, now, walk, and live.” I knew that my sister would never know that physical healing in this life but, as I sang those words, I knew that in the life to come, in the resurrection on the last day, she would know that healing; she would indeed stand up, walk and live.

After Mass, while I was undoubtedly playing some bombastic organ postlude, I sensed the presence of someone standing behind me. At that 7:30 Mass, it usually meant it was someone who, when I finished, would tell me, “You play that pipe organ too loud!”

But not this time. The woman said, “Hi, I don’t usually talk to people here. My husband and I have been attending the 7:30 Mass together for about thirty years, but we are “in-and-out” kind of Catholics. Anyway, I just had to say something to you. You see, we were here last Sunday. It’s all part of our usual Sunday routine. We are early risers. My husband goes out early to get some donuts and the Sunday Chicago Tribune. We sit, have coffee and donuts, read the Sunday paper, then it’s off to church. When we got home after Mass last week, he wasn’t feeling well and by Sunday night he was so ill that I brought him to the hospital. I have spent the whole week pacing the halls there, waiting for test results. Yesterday I found out that my husband has a very serious cancer. When I woke up this morning, there were no donuts, there was no Chicago Tribune. I sat at home, wondering whether I should come to Mass without him. Well, I came anyway, and when I walked in here, I sat down in my usual place, only my husband was not next to me in his usual spot. I kept reaching for him. I just sat there and I said to God, “God, I need you to say something to me.” The woman then looked right into my eyes and said, “Then I heard you sing the words, ‘Do not be afraid, I am with you.’ I knew, then and there that God was speaking directly to me through you.” Please, join me now: “Do not be afraid, I am with you, I have called you each by name, Come and follow me, I will bring you home; I love you and you are mine.”

Folks, I am convinced that what occurred on that Sunday morning signaled a real transition for me; a move from just “playing the notes” to me being an artist. And I am 100% convinced that this happened because I brought my sister Joanne’s illness into Mass with me that Sunday.

Paul Tillich, one of the most influential Protestant theologians of the twentieth century, said the following in an address that marked the opening of the new galleries and sculpture garden at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1964.

“The artist brings to our senses and through them to our whole being something of the depth of our world and of ourselves, something of the mystery of being. When we are grasped by a work of art things appear to us which were unknown before—possibilities of being, unthought-of powers, hidden in the depth of life which take hold of us.”

—Paul Tillich, “Address on the Occasion of the Opening of the New Galleries and Sculpture Garden of the Museum of Modern Art,” 1964

My friends, as we prepare for the implementation of the new translation, we musicians must remember that we have art on our side. From the moment I heard the musical settings of the Mass that our composers had crafted, I knew that we musicians and the people in our pews were going to be just fine with this new translation, at least with our sung parts.

As a matter of fact, it has been the musical settings of the Masses that I have found have the power to really help change peoples’ hearts.

About sixteen months ago, I was invited to give one of the presentations at a parish mission in one of the suburban Chicago parishes. There were about 350 parishioners in attendance. My presentation was to focus on the new translation. For the majority of people, this was the first time they were being exposed to the new texts. I moved through my usual catechesis on the new translation, how we got where we are, why we are where we are, and so on, and then I moved into talking about the fact that there was much more chant in the new missal than in our current Sacramentary, and that our bishops were asking us to learn the chants of the new Roman Missal. An elderly woman in the front row raised her hand and with an angry tone, screamed out, “For goodness sake, we are not chanters, we are Americans!”

I immediately began to sing, “Our Father who art heaven . . .” (Chant through the entire Lord’s Prayer). When we finished, she looked at me and said, “OK, maybe one!”

Many of the people at that parish said that they had come to the mission session with a lot of fear. They were afraid that their Mass was going to change dramatically. I decided to use the late Richard Proulx’s Gloria Simplex as the first musical setting of the Gloria these people would ever sing. So we began, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will. We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father.” When we finished this chant setting, I was amazed at how the fear and anxiety with which many had arrived at the session turned into a kind of “I think we are going to be OK” kind of feeling.

It was the music, it was the fact that these texts were being paired with the musical art, that made all the difference in the world. Folks, we musicians are very blessed during this time of transition. As I said, we have art on our side. The dialogues and newly composed or revised acclamations, I predict, will be loved by our choirs, our cantors, our instrumentalists, our clergy, and our people.

Perhaps the greatest challenge that the new translation presents is for our bishops and priests. True, they practice their own art, the ars celebrandi, the art of celebration, but their texts, particularly the presidential orations, are quite awkward and stilted in places, and quite beautiful and inspiring in other places. While we musicians are quite blessed with the gifts that composers have given us, those entrusted with proclaiming these new texts will need our prayers and support more than ever.

SECTION THREE: The Celebration of the Liturgy and Its Power to Catechize Us

Finally, I’d like to talk about the absolute necessity for us to allow the celebration of the liturgy to catechize us as musicians and clergy; to form and reform us.

I’d like to tell you about something that happened to me on Sunday, January 18, 2009. I’ve already shared a story this morning about my sister Joanne. Joanne died in February of 2001. In early January of 2009, another younger sister, my sister Janet, was diagnosed with an incurable and untreatable cancer. When she shared the devastating diagnosis with me, the image that entered my mind was the memory of my parents standing at the casket of my sister Joanne less than ten years earlier. I just couldn’t imagine my mom and dad going through that unfair pain again.

That following Sunday after hearing of Janet’s diagnosis, January 18, 2009, happened to be the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time. I went to Mass that Sunday a very sad and hurting man. When I sat down before Mass, I asked God to help me; I asked God to speak to me during Mass; to move my heart toward some kind of understanding. And all through that Mass, I waited, and I waited. There was something about the prayer over the gifts that caught my attention but, to be frank, my pastor prayed the prayer too quickly. At the end of Mass, I was disappointed and was close to despair.

The next morning, when I went to the office, I tracked down my friend and colleague Michael Novak. Michael’s wife, Judy, had been living with cancer for several years. Mike is a cantor at the Milwaukee Cathedral and conducts the men’s choir there. I asked him how he did it. He asked me what I meant and I explained about my sister’s diagnosis and my experience at Mass the day before. I asked him how he went to Mass every Sunday with the weight of his wife’s illness on his mind and heart. I mentioned the fact that there was something about the prayer over the gifts that had caught my attention. So, he grabbed the Sacramentary from his shelf and we looked up the prayer over the gifts for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. This is what we found:

may we celebrate the eucharist
with reverence and love,
for when we proclaim the death of the Lord
you continue the work of his redemption,
who is Lord for ever and ever. Amen.

That was it for me. It wasn’t until after the celebration of that Mass, in a marvelous moment of mystagogy with Michael, that I discovered that God was touching my heart. When we proclaim the death of the Lord, in the very act of celebrating Mass, God continues the work of his redemption; redemption in my own heavy heart, in the life of my sister Janet.

You and I need to be, as Father Ed Foley often says, shaken out of our own ritual stupor and allow the liturgy to do what the liturgy does. For too long we have, with all the best intentions, narrowed our understanding, and perhaps the potential power of the liturgy by defining liturgy solely as the “work of the people.” Friends, the liturgy, first and foremost, is the work of God. Every single time, without exception, every single Mass, without exception, God wants to work a miracle of transformation on each and every one of us.

On Pentecost Sunday two years ago, I was substituting at the piano at my own parish. The lector was struggling through the first reading and was having trouble with some of the pronunciation. When she reached the line, “We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,” she struggled with that last place. Instead of Pamphylia, she said “Paraphrasia.” For a second I wondered if that’s the place where the folks who created Comme le Prevoit live.

Well a few days later, I was relating this rather comical liturgical moment to my colleagues with whom I ride in a carpool. One said, “You know you were probably the only one in the church that even noticed. It’s sad that Catholics often don’t even pay attention.”

And I thought this was one of the saddest commentaries that I have heard.

My friends, sometimes this happens to us and I know, because I have been there. For instance, during the Opening Prayer, or Collect, I have found myself paying no attention because I am wondering if Phyllis the cantor is going to mess up the second verse of the Responsorial Psalm like she did the last time she sang it. Folks, God wants to work on us when that opening prayer is prayed. We need to pay much, much more attention to these newly translated prayers. This new “sacral vernacular,” this new sound of praying, demands much, much more active listening. And if we ever hope to have a chance to catechize those God entrusts to our care, we as musicians and clergy need to be more attentive; we need to let the celebration of good liturgy catechize us. I have asked people, the clergy in particular, across the country this question, “Do you believe that God continues the work of salvation when you pray the Opening Prayer?” The answer had better be “yes.”

To conclude this final plenum, and before we are commissioned to go forth from this place, I’d like to share a passage from a little book that has helped me through this time of transition; it is one of my favorite passages from Eduardo Galeano’s fine book, The Book of Embraces. This short passage is entitled “The Function of Art/1.”

Diego had never seen the sea.
His father, Santiago Kovadloff,
took him to discover it.
They went south.
The ocean lay beyond high sand dunes, waiting.
When the child and his father finally reached the dunes after much walking,
the ocean exploded before their eyes.
And so immense was the sea and its sparkle
that the child was struck dumb by the beauty of it.
And when he finally managed to speak,
trembling, stuttering,
he asked his father:
"Help me to see!"

Friends, our hope is that this new translation will do something more than provide new words that are closer to the original Latin. My hope is that it will, in some new way, “shake us out of our ritual stupor.” This is a unique moment, a moment when people will be asking questions about the Mass, a moment of enormously potential liturgical renewal. And, just like the child who was led to the ocean by his father, our people are looking for us to lead them. Like that little boy’s plea to his father, our people are pleading with us, “Help me to see.” For us, it is not the ocean that we are leading people to see. We are leading people to see something that sparkles more than any ocean could ever hope to sparkle. We are helping them to see, to be stunned by, to be struck dumb by a small glimpse of a world beyond our own understanding. Through our music, through our catechesis, through our art, we are giving people a glimpse of that great mystery, that magnum mysterium, that new day, the banquet that is to come. My friends, as a Catholic sitting in the pews, I join my voice with the people of your parishes, and, like that little boy, I look into your eyes and I echo that plea, “Help me to see . . . help me to see.”


Charles Culbreth said...

Where there is hope, will come inspiration. Where there is inspiration, hope may still enter.
Hopefully your words and prayers will continue to kindle both hope and inspiration within millions of hearts for decades and beyond. So much fear, so much anger, so much division....why and for what desired end.
I regret positing whether GSGP was initially some sort of "Amen Corner" for conventional wisdom and other ecclesial agendae in vogue in the moment.
Your reflections have helped me to re-center my own attitude over time, Jerry, and follow the example of the Living Lord as best I can. "Straighten up and fly right" was the taut cliche back in the day. Still is, but when such is said from your heart, Jerry, it is with a gentle, affirming voice. A singing voice. God bless you.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Thank you, Charles.

Stephen said...

It was great to witness your plenum address first-hand. It was the most moving of them all, and gave us a lot to look foward to and a lot to work on. Thanks for reposting!

Denise Morency Gannon said...

Jerry, thank you for posting your plenum talk. I missed the conference this year and a colleague texted me as you were speaking and said, "I wish you could hear this." So I did the next best thing: I read it and pointed my own diocesan musicians to Gotta Sing Gotta Pray so they can read it as well. As I gather 400 musicians in the next few weeks to pray and pour over texts and music, your words will inspire us to move forward in the spirit of the living God. Thank you. Thank you.

Mark Wunder said...

Thank you for posting this, Jerry. I tried to take notes as much as possible, but I wasn't always successful. Your plenum address was great!

Therese Anello said...

I attended the NPM Convention, but was catching a plane back to Florida Friday and unable to hear you speak. Thank you for posting your words on your blog. You are a true inspiration and really get to the heart of the matter as a musician. Thank you, and WLP, for providing a wealth of information, good music, and sound advice. I am a good friend of Kathie Thomas that works in Human Resources; she was my best alto when I was Music & Liturgy Director at St. Isidore's Parish, Bloomingdale, Illinois back in the '90's. I oftened visited her at Paluch when I returned to Chicago from Florida - it was always like coming home. I may see you at the Orlando Liturgical Conference later this month. Blessings...and keep up the fabulous work! Therese Anello