Wednesday, September 14, 2011

English in Birmingham and Latin in Madrid

Wednesday greetings to all.

I am leaving for the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama tomorrow. I will be presenting a keynote to about 450 teachers and staff members of the Catholic school system there. An afternoon workshop follows, during which we will look more deeply at the new translation and do some singing. One of the questions I am posing to these teachers is this:

If one of your Catholic school students asked you, “Mrs. Smith, when I went to church yesterday, it was really strange; the words were different. Why?” What would your response be?

I am very interested to hear the discussion that ensues.
On Saturday I will be meeting with another group of people in the diocese and our focus is, you guessed it, the new translation.
I wanted to share a conversation I had recently. I was speaking with a bishop in one of our dioceses here in the United States. He had just returned from World Youth Day in Madrid. After I introduced myself and told him that I was the associate publisher at WLP, he began to speak to me quite passionately about his experience in Madrid. He told me how very sad he became when he was at many of the large gatherings and the celebrations of Masses at which the English-speaking youth from around the world were gathered. He spoke about the fact that at many of these gatherings and Masses, all of the music was chanted by a choir in Latin. He said that many times he looked at the youth gathered there and saw looks of disinterest and boredom on their faces. He said that he felt strongly that this was such a missed opportunity. He said that the Mass celebrated by Cardinal George for the group from the United States was quite different; there was music in English and Spanish that the young people sang with vigor. It was the other large gatherings that he found to be so disappointing. He told me that, because of the music at these other Masses, the young people were not connected to the celebration. I urged him to speak to his fellow bishops about his experience.
I know this will open a can of worms. This was one bishop's opinion, which I felt needed to be shared here.
I will do my best to post over the next few days.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Anonymous said...

I am not surprised by this. However, one thing that I am curious about is whether the new translation, which is closer to the original Latin, may also bring people closer to boredom. I feel that a lot of the new translation sounds awkward enough and long-winded enough that I would not be surprised if a large percentage of people (not just youth) begin to tune it out. I think that this will be less the case for the musical parts if vibrant music settings are used, however, I still think that a lot of the new text is much more difficult to understand.

I often get a feel from reading the comments on this blog that many of the readers prefer for the text to be as close to Latin as possible. However, my guess is that the average Catholic in the US prefers language that he or she can easily understand and relate to.

Charles G said...

Of course when the vast bulk of Catholic youth and indeed Catholics in general in this country have never been exposed to or taught to treasure the liturgical and musical riches of the Catholic liturgy or the language of the Latin rite, contrary to Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium, which stated that the Latin language should be preserved in the Latin rite and that Gregorian chant should have pride of place, of course people are going to act disengaged when exposed to it. We now have several generations of Catholics who have been deliberately brought up to be ignorant of the riches of Catholic liturgical musical and artistic tradition by a vast liturgical-industrial complex that is ideologically opposed to anything "old" or "traditional" on principle. I just hope the new translation will provide enough of a spark to start to change the execrable and depressing liturgical shambles that are most parishes in this country.

Charles G said...

And I would further add that, just perhaps, the bishop is reading what he wants to see in those young people. Perhaps they actually were connecting with the liturgy, but in a more contemplative and spiritual way than by just singing a song. Participatio Actuosa is not necessarily physically doing stuff -- it is paying attention and uniting oneself with the sacrifice of the Mass. The bishop's assumption that just because someone is singing a happy clappy song in the vernacular that that is automatically more engaged participation in the liturgy has been a common fallacy of many liturgists in the several decades since the Council.

Rismi said...

Was this only with the Eucharistic Celebrations in English? I recall seeing the one of the Pope with the youth on Sunday, the last one, and lots of the songs were not in Latin. They even sang "Here I Am, Lord" during Communion.

FJH 3rd said...

Anonymous - I think the folks in the pews will find the new, corrected translation more "prayerful". I think they will come to embrace the overall more prayerful feel of the Mass fairly quickly.

AliasKate said...

FJH -- The phrase "the corrected translation" suggests that the current translation is "incorrect." Perhaps, instead, both translations were true to the respective translation approaches -- dynamic vs. formal equivalence -- that guided the work. Rhetoric and generalizations aside, I am open to seeing how the "revised translation" and the Spirit conspire to affect people's minds and hearts.

Kate S said...

During Lent, we usually chant the Agnus Dei in Latin. Two years ago, we chanted the Sanctus in Latin as well. The reaction was unfavorable, not so much from those under 50, but from older parishioners. I had thought they might welcome going back to something they remembered from their youth--was I wrong!

I agree that active participation takes many forms; in the parish where I work, the people like to sing. Getting them to listen simply takes more effort, no matter the language or the instrument being used. This doesn't mean that the effort shouldn't be made. Experiencing different ways to pray and participate is good for all of us.