Welcome to a new installment of "New Translation Tuesday."
We are all very busy here at WLP gearing up for next week's national convention of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians in Louisville. I am giving the final plenum of the convention on Friday; my presentation is all about catechesis and the new translation. I am also giving two workshops focused on the implementation.
There is a big part of me that feels like this, "For goodness sakes, how much more do we need to say about the new translation? Let's just do it!" Then I remember that as recently as last week at Notre Dame, a pastoral musician asked me how she should respond to questions about the new translation that come from concerned parishioners. Some parishes have yet to begin their preparations and catechesis for the transition. With the surprise announcement a few weeks ago--that our bishops had decided that the new translation could be sung beginning in September in dioceses where the bishop permits it--many parish leaders might find themselves re-inventing their catechetical program, kind of scrambling at this point. I do think we need to all take a collective big deep breath and realize that we will get through this. It's the music that will make the real difference for those of us in the pews (and in choir lofts and choir areas in our churches).
I want to share something that has been eating away at me for quite some time. Most of those who have been offering scathing critiques of the new translation are counted among my friends. One critique recently went so far as to urge that we should refuse to use the new texts and stay with the current Sacramentary texts. I guess I find myself confused about these critiques. I, too, have spent lots of time with these texts and have discovered some real problems with some of the translations. But I wonder about passing a judgment of condemnation upon them, as some of the critics have done. It's like a theater critic reading a script six weeks before opening night and declaring the play a flop.
When I was working with priests in Davenport, I chose some of the more problematic texts for them to work with. They divided up into small groups and I asked them to share their thoughts about the particular text assigned to the group. The complaints abounded. "This is all one long sentence." "I can't find the antecedent." "The grammar just doesn't look right to me." "What kind of English is this anyway?" "I don't think anyone will understand this prayer."
Then I asked a member of the small group, "Father, would you pray that text for us?" After these priests had spent time visually analyzing the texts and expressings their thoughts about the texts, the actual praying of the texts surprised everyone in attendance. We heard things like, "Wow, despite the fact that it appeared stilted on the page, I think you did a beautiful job praying that prayer." "Good job, Harry, that's a tough text but you conveyed it beautifully."
I was suprised by what occurred, which is why I think we really need to resist the temptation to condemn the text before "the curtain" actually rises.
Once the curtain does rise--as I have said before--each of us has a right and duty by reason of our baptism to really examine the ways the newly translated texts may weaken or strengthen our faith. And we have the responsibility to let our pastors and bishops and the congregation in Rome know just how this translation is working or not working to strengthen our faith; how it is helping or hindering us from giving praise and thanks to God at Mass. How can we determine these things months before the curtain rises?
I mean no offense to those, my friends, who have already posted their reviews. I just ask that they consider waiting until the play begins and gets into at least the middle of the second act before passing a judgment of condemnation.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.