Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Translation Tuesday: Catholic School Teachers and the New Translation: The Birmingham Experience

Welcome to "New Translation Tuesday."

I wanted to comment further about my experience in the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama last week.

On Friday morning, I presented a keynote on the new translation to over 500 Catholic school teachers; this was their annual Fall In-service Day. Knowing that many (perhaps 1/4) of the audience would be non-Catholic, my presentation was a little more basic than others.

In the afternoon, I was able to gather with about 60 teachers, most of them were principals or theology and religion teachers across the school system and across the age spectrum.

I learned a lot.

One principal explained that for much younger children, those in the early years (Kindergarten and First Grade), the changes would be accepted with ease. This principal said that the children would need some catechesis, but that their worship experience was still in the formative stage and they basically accept what they are told is a "new way."

One teacher, who works with middle school children told me he was trying to formulate his responses to their inevitable questions about the translation. He asked me if it would be OK to say to these children something like this. "The language we use at Mass needs to be a holier language. Think about how you speak with your friends and how different it is when you speak with your teachers, your principal, your parents, your elders. You would certainly not speak with these people in the same tone and in the same casual way that you speak with your friends. Well, the Church thinks that the language we use at Mass should be more formal, since we are praying to God. It is a more polite and respectful tone in English; not the kind of casual language that we use when we are talking with our friends."

I thought this was pretty insightful on the part of this teacher.

The teachers, as well as the people in attendance at Saturday's workshop for other ministers in the diocese (a mix of clergy, catechists, liturgists, choir members, and other liturgical ministers) expressed support for the new translation. However, there were some cautions expressed.

Many priests in the diocese are from countries other than the United States. Some people said that they have difficulty understanding the priest at Mass now, with the current translation. They wondered what the future will hold, with a more "elevated" and more challenging English to proclaim. Others wondered if their pastors will be committed to the kind of work it will take to pray these prayers in a way that really gets the meaning across to the congregation.

These are legitimate concerns. And, as I have said before, time and experience will tell.

Well, that's about it for now. Glad to be back in Chicago. Heading back to New England this weekend for a keynote presentation on Saturday. More about that later.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Jeff Rexhausen said...


I think that telling people that we should be using a more formal, "holier" language when we speak to God is the opposite of what Jesus taught. He said we should call God "Abba." How much more infomrmal and intimate can you get. If that's the kind of relationship that Jesus wants us to have with his Father, by whose authority to we tell people the opposite?

Jesus says "I call you friends," so we should be speaking to him as we speak to a friend.

It's fine to say that we should be polite and respectful when speaking to God (and to friends), but there is nothing in the current translation that is impolite or disrespectful. By using this appproach in our catechesis, we are implying that there is something wrong with the language of the current translation, and that just ain't so.

Brent McWilliams said...

Why can't we just boil it down to the fact that we have a new translation, which means new translators and each translator does their job differently. I know this is a dismissive approach to all of the angst, but the kids don't need to be aware of all of that angst.

Stephen said...

Jerry, since 10/1 is a Sat. when Do you expect missals to arrive? 10/3? Or will they be shipped in advance to arrive on 10/1?