Monday, August 8, 2011

Wonder in Iowa

Monday greetings to all.

What a whirlwind weekend. The drive out to Cedar Falls, Iowa on Friday took just over five hours. I had forgotten how beautiful western Illinois and eastern Iowa are. These two states are quite flat in most places, but the areas along the Mississippi are filled with hills and some beautiful vistas atop the ridges.

Saturday's session with the deacon community of the Archdiocese of Dubuque went quite well. There were others in attendance as well: people in ministry from the Archdiocese, as well as a religious sister from the Archdiocese of Omaha, and two monks from New Malleray Abbey, a Trappist community in eastern Iowa.

The session on the implementation of The Roman Missal, Third Edition, took place at Saint Gabriel Church in Reinbeck. Folks, for a city guy like me, the whole experience of this locale was eye-opening. On Saturday morning, I left my hotel and drive another twenty miles or so to Reinbeck. There is literally nothing but corn as far as the eye can see. As I drove, I waited and waited to find a house or the little town of Reinbeck. Then, over the crest of a small hill suddenly appeared Saint Gabriel's, a large fairly new Catholic Church sitting right in the middle of the corn fields. Here's photo I took of the exterior:

The interior was simple and beautiful. It had a large immersion baptism font. Some more photos:

The was the view looking outside of the church window:

Corn for a far as the eye could see.

Here's a quick shot I took of some of the great people who attended Saturday's event:

So, in this country setting about seventy of us talked about singing and praying the new translation. The deacons, their wives, and everyone else present were engaged in the process; they asked good questions, wrestling with the pastoral issues. Many of these deacons are the celebrants at places that may not be able to celebrate Mass every Sunday, due to the shortage of priests, so they will be praying some of the prayers from the missal at these celebrations in the absence of a priest. The participants did express concern about the very awkward sounding structure that begins many of the prayers, like this Collect from the Second Sunday of Lent:

O God, who have commanded us
to listen to your beloved Son,
be pleased, we pray,
to nourish us inwardly by your word,
that, with spiritual sight made pure,
we may rejoice to behold your glory.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

They asked questions about this: Why does it sound like I am speaking improper English? Is this a mistake? Shouldn't there be a "you" placed before the "who"? Then some wondered aloud how the second sentence that begins "Through our Lord" can even be a sentence at all, since there is no subject and no predicate. Someone said that he was assuming that we were just supposed to add the words "We ask this" before "Through our Lord," since the way it appeared in the Missal made little sense grammatically.
Even with this kind of examination, most agreed that, with the right amount of practice and prayerful preparation, the prayers could be prayed well.

Folks, I was left wondering if this will eventually be the case with the new translation. Even though the kind of English that is prayed uses some archaic words, appears awkward and stilted in many places, has, in places a structure that impedes instant understanding, is it possible that, with practice and prayerful preparation celebrants might be able to pray these well anyway? And we might be able to be moved by them? To be frank, I am not sure. And I come to this conclusion because I have not yet had the experience of hearing these prayers at Mass. Will liturgical context make a difference? Does the collect for the Second Sunday of Advent actually prayed on that Sunday somehow have more potential power than it might have in a workshop in Iowa on a Saturday afternoon in August?

I am cautiously hopeful. More on my experience in Iowa tomorrow.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray. 


Anonymous said...

My concern regarding this is that it is going to be very easy for people in the congregation to tune out many of the prayers. If they sound difficult to comprehend, no matter how well the words are spoken, it is likely that it will be difficult for everyone in the pews to understand and think about the meaning.

AliasKate said...

Yes, the liturgical context will make a difference, for better and possibly for worse. I heard this prayed in a dry run Mass last year and even in that situation, it felt different. The presider prayed it well -- and that will be critical. But precisely because of the unfamiliar structures, we may find our ears more attuned to it vs. what has become familiar. I am not a fan of how this all unfolded with the Roman curia, but I'm confident that the Spirit is somewhere at work in the prayer and in the hearts of those who will pray it in earnest.