Thursday, September 22, 2011

New Translation Thursday: Preparatory Catechesis and Negative/Positive Reactions, A Correlation?

Welcome to this edition of "New Translation Thursday."

I am leaving tomorrow, headed to Bloomfield, Connecticut, where I will be presenting the keynote at the "Connect: Uniting Generations & Blending Traditions Conference," sponsored by the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm. Their stated purpose is this: "to unite generations within the Church. The hope is to help bridge the gap between young adults and the elderly. The target population of attendees ranges in age from 18 to 118!"

My keynote is entitled "Embracing Change and Going Deeper: Vatican II and the New Translation." I am looking forward to this opportunity to exchange ideas with a multi-generational audience.

One of our staff members here at WLP made an interesting observation several weeks ago. While giving a presentation on the new translation to a group of young adults as part of the Archdiocese of Chicago's "Theology on Tap" program during the summer, one of the young adults made a comment about the new translation. Unphased by the fact that this new translation is about to be implemented, this particular young adult said something like, "We go through this all the time where I work. It looks to me like it's something akin to updating and navigating from Windows 5.0 to Windows 6.0."

Perhaps this is an indication that young adults are more adaptable to change in every day life than most; who really knows? I just found the comment interesting.

You have undoubtedly heard and read of reports from other English-speaking countries where some of the changes are being implemented. It seems that a large majority of respondents are expressing negative views about the changes. This is an understandable first reaction. One wonders what the correlation is between positive or negative reactions and the amount of preparatory catechesis. I know from my own experience that there are some people who, even with a solid foundation of preparatory catechesis, will reject the new translation. Others who had approached the whole issue very negatively at the beginning became more open to the new translation when the changes were explained and set in the context of liturgical history. My fear is that the vast majority of Catholics will either not pay attention to catechetical efforts, will not find the time to read bulletin articles, nor attend parish preparatory sessions. As I have said, I just know that there will be people who attend Mass regularly at parishes that have made great efforts at catechizing people about the new translation who will arrive at Mass on November 27 and shout, "What's going on here? Why was I never told about any of these changes?" I guess that's just the reality these days.

I hope that wherever you are, catechetical efforts are either in full-swing or at least have begun in earnest.

Here at WLP and the J.S. Paluch Company, we surveyed those parishes that have J.S. Paluch bulletins. The majority told us that they do not look for full-page, long articles about the new translation because they feel that parishioners do not take the time to read lengthy bulletin articles. They asked us for a series of short (150 words) articles covering the basics of the new translation. Our staff here (including yours truly) worked through the Spring and Summer months to write these articles. They have been made available to our bulletin subscribers through the J.S. Paluch Subscriber Resource Center. Many parishes have begun posting these short articles; others have called to inquire about whether anything is available and we steer them to the Subscriber Resource Center. (A little commercial here) This is one of the benefits of subscribing to J.S. Paluch parish bulletins. Our staff here at WLP (many of whom have advanced degrees in theology, liturgy, and music) is largely responsible for the content in the resource center that is only accessible by J.S. Paluch bulletin parishes. Our hope is that, even after the new translation is implemented, J.S. Paluch bulletin parishes will continue to post or re-post these articles to help parishioners understand what is happening. This is one small way that we are trying to fulfill our mission to serve the needs of the singing, praying, and initiating Church.

Thanks for listening today. My question to you is this: Do you see a correlation between reactions (negative and positive) to the new translation and the amount of preparatory catechesis that is provided?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


peregrinus_sg said...

To be honest, the only place I've heard or read "reports from other English-speaking countries where ... a large majority of respondents are expressing negative views about the changes" is Pray Tell Blog. And I wouldn't consider that to be a representative source of information in this important matter.

My archdiocese has also implemented the new translation of the Order of Mass - I haven't seen or heard negative reactions. In fact, at the various churches I've been to, many people, to my surprise, respond enthusiastically with "And with your spirit". The weekday Mass crowd are more at home with the new responses than the Sunday Mass crowd - probably because they get to use the new words more frequently than Sunday-only folks.

Anonymous said...

I am really curious about what you are going to say about Vatican II and the translation. I have seen the new translation viewed as moving away from the direction of Vatican II.

I remember there being something on the Center for Liturgy website (at St. Louis University), which I cannot find anymore, that seemed to indicate that the new translation was part of the reforms moving away from Vatican II.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the comment that moving from one translation to another is akin to moving from one version of Windows to another, you say "Perhaps this is an indication that young adults are more adaptable to change in every day life than most."

Or maybe it's that they don't have any more attachment to the Mass than they have to a computer. I can deal with updated software too even though I'm not a young adult. But I find the new translation abhorrent because the Mass matters to me. Something as ugly as the new translation is not going to help my spiritual life. And then where do I go?

peregrinus_sg said...

"And then where do I go?"

"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life."

As Pope Benedict reminded us in his apostolic visit to Germany, the Church of the Saints is littered with sinners, warts and darnel all along the way. You are not perfect yet, neither am I. We just have to struggle with each others' grevious failings along the way.

But I don't agree at all with those who say that the new translation is horrible or backwards. That's emotive language, and that's an exaggeration. There may be points in the new translation that some people don't like, but this is going to be one's subjective judgement. We can be like Kreacher and keep shouting no's and wont's, and injure ourselves and the Body of Christ, or we can change our perspective and let our minds be renewed.

I don't know about most people, but when I switch from one computer programme to another, I find it easiest if I can make use of the structure or logic of the old programme to scaffold my understanding of the new one. The switch from the old translation to the new (or to another language) will be most difficult for those for whom the Mass meant nothing beyond the words they say. For those who appreciate the meaning and value of the Mass, the cloak of new words will probably fit more easily and comfortably.

Anonymous said...

Living in the UK, I've had a few Masses with the new words now. Family commitments prevented me from attending the deanery's catechesis, so I am coming at the new text more-or-less cold. Having said that, I fail to see how even the very best catechesis in the world can make up for a dire English.

If, for example, I was, here, to use, rightly or wrongly, a style, spoken or written, that interjects, as frequently as possible, subordinate clauses that, as any Latin scholar will attest, form valid, and I mean really valid, sentences in that venerable, by which I mean old, language, the result, in English, would be utterly unreadable.

No amount of telling me that is how Latin works is going to make the sentence work in English. This is because English is not Latin. The way you express yourself in English is, necessarily, quite different from Latin and to attempt to force English to conform to Latin is doomed to produce unreadable English.

Paul Robertson

Anonymous said...

Paul, go take a look at some writing by Dickens. Lots of subordinate clauses and parenthetical asides in long sentences. Beautiful, and perhaps a bit challenging. We are so used to "dumbed-down" English. I find the new, corrected translation to be prayerful, thought-provoking, and much more suited to worship than the 1973 stuff we have been hearing for, lord help us, nearly 40 long years!