Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Translation Tuesday: Some Anxiety

Welcome to this "Virginia" installment of "New Translation Tuesday."

Well, the days are counting down; we are nineteen days away from implementation and I have to admit that I am feeling some anxiety as the date approaches.

Here in Virginia, I attended three Masses this past weekend at the parish in which I am presenting a mission. The pastor has a wonderful sense of the ars celebrandi. He prays the Mass beatifully. He is engaging and strong as a celebrant. This is a priest who knows the Sacramentary. We have had several long discussions about the newly translated missal. He has spent lots of time preparing for a new day in his priesthood. As my pastor has done, he has echoed the sentiments of many priests with whom I have spoken. They say things like, "These are the prayers into which I was ordained." "These are the prayers that have shaped my Catholic life, both personally and as a leader of prayer." "I love these prayers." "While I find places in the current Sacramentary where the translation is week, it remains the book that has guided my life."

Every one of these priests has been trying their hardest to prepare for what is to come, which is most definitely a very different English style of prayer. They are working hard to figure out ways to pray texts that do not roll off the tongue easily. I have a tremendous amount of respect for these men. And you know that I have been praying for them.

As I watched the members of the congregation this weekend as the presidential prayers were being prayed with confidence and strength, I wondered what this particular parish's experience will be in a few months. I am hoping (honestly I feel sometimes against hope?) that everything will be fine. This is where my anxiety creeps in. What about those places where the priest has done little to prepare; those places where there is a sense of ambivalence about liturgical prayer in general; those places where there has been little or no preparation for what is to come? Because in these places dwell my brothers and sisters, I am anxious about them.

As these days of the current translation wane, how are you feeling? What is your heart telling you?

Thanks for listening.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


FJH 3rd said...

I am feeling excited, eager, and a bit disbelieving that the day is - at long last - nearly here! Sure, there may be stumbles at first. I fully expect that most of my fellow parishioners will answer, from habit, "And also with you" the first few times. And I'm sure the priests may trip over a collect or the dismissal a couple of times. But I am quite confident that, within a very short time - a couple of months, max - the elevated tone and theological accuracy of these new texts will be embraced by the faithful and provide many graces for us.

Austin Fleming said...

I'm a pastor who preaches 3-4 times per weekend. I write my homilies and preach from a text. After the Saturday evening Mass, I take that text home and edit it: there's nothing like preaching a homily to really understand what needs more work. Regularly, after Masses on Sunday mornings, I pencil in further editing. I almost never make substantive changes in my homily as the weekend goes along. It's a process of fine tuning a text so that it speaks its message as clearly and beautifully as a prose offering might.

As I work on preparing to use the new missal, I find myself wanting to reach for a blue pencil. I don't want to make substantive changes but I'm stumbling over poorly constructed sentences that obscure the substance of the prayers. I want these texts to speak more clearly and beautifully what we're praying.

I'm calling the people of my parish to invest themselves in this new translation. I've told them that if we don't really give ourselves to it we'll never truly know how well (or poorly) it functions in our ritual. And I'm calling myself to that same investment.

Still, my editor's mind and my heart's poet want so much to work these texts to the beauty they deserve and contain, a beauty I'm afraid will be lost in language most publishers would never consider printing for an English speaking audience.

What's ahead won't be easy but it's what we need to do.

Simon Ho said...

Certainly, a well prepared Priest and congregation will smoothen the implementation.

In my diocese, we actually rolled in the new Order of Mass (including all the new prefaces and Eucharistic Prayers) with insignificant amount of preparations. Some Priests are also not native speakers of English. I'm not sure how much these Priests invest in preparing for the new texts, but so far, they make pretty much the same mistakes as when they used the old translation - pauses at the wrong places, odd intonations, mispronounced words. Nothing catastrophic.

Anonymous said...

I'm a tad anxious. My parish has been using the revised texts for the Gloria, Holy, Mem., Amen, and also "And with your spirit" for the five times it calls for. We stumbled, our pastor did a great job reminding us, 2/5, 3/5, 2 to go. Our pastor on Sunday, in addition to other talks by our Director of Liturgy and our Director of Music, provided a further overview as the the mass cards were placed in the pews with all the new parts. I applaud my parish, the staff, and assembly for a job well done so far. The final conclusion: the presider's texts such as the the use of "chalice" during the Eucharistic prayer.

ethelthefrog said...

FJH, experience of the last two months suggests that the parishes in which I attend Mass have not had nearly the success you anticipate.

The priests are all having difficulty making the text sing, as there is nothing they can do with the awkward phrasing.

The Sanctus fails dismally, every time. Even after two months, people haven't adjusted to the new words, which seem to pay no heed to the rhythm of the prayer. We get "Holy, holy, holy Lord. er... God of Hosts." After that, the rhythm picks up again, as the words are familiar once more. I am sure that, given sufficient years, that we'll find something that works.

I've also noticed that the first two "And with your spirit"s are OK, but three, four and five are forgotten about.

I have heard of one priest nearby who simply refuses to use the new words and is going to stick with the '73 until something radical happens. No idea what is going to happen to his parishoners, as we already have more parishes than priests.

The grovelling tone that much of the text address to the Lord is encouraging us to consider God as unapproachable, in direct contradiction of Christ's teaching on such matters.

There is a growing rumble of discontent among priest and people as it is hammered home again and again that we are little children who need to shut up and take our medicine and stop crying that it hurts.

I wish you well, and I hope that integration in your parish is smoother than in mine, and that the people there are able to relate to the new text more easily than experience here shows.


ethelthefrog said...

To answer Dr Jerry's question, my heart is in great sorrow. The old words have been helping my prayer life since I was born. I could follow them easily, as they were written in actual vernacular. In language I use daily, without layers of subordinate and relative clauses, without "we pray" peppering the entire text.

The new translation is full of awkward structure and words used so infrequently that they still smell of mothballs. The simple lack of elegance focuses my attention on the words and a constantly reinforced disbelief that this tripe ever made it to publication. It has detracted significantly from my participation in the Mass.

In short, I mourn. For all the well-publicised shortcomings of the '73 words, the new words are worse. Much worse. And my heart weeps with every Mass I attend.


Anonymous said...

I am enjoying the old translation while it is still being used. I am going to try to find parishes that still use old translation mass settings to attend mass at during the remaining two Sundays prior to Advent.

I noticed that one of the posts mentioned a parish that is already using "And with your spirit." Is this rallowed? Wouldn't using a response prior to its authorization be the same type of offense as using a response after its authorization has ended?

Anonymous said...

Thank you to commenters whose honesty is helping me breathe and not feel alone as I study these new words. I teach middle school religion to 143 children in a Catholic School. I know it is my responsibility to help them become comfortable and familiar with the new missal.
Imagine, if you can, explaining how "consubstantial" is clearer than "one in being"? The majority of our kids are Catholic, but only 30% are regular Mass goers outside of our school's monthly Mass.

peregrinus.sg said...

One in being is not any clearer in meaning. I've always explained that the term is a philosophical term and therefore any simplification, whether as "one in essence" or "one in substance" can always be misinterpreted, unless one considers the philosophical underpinnings. Thus, consubstantial, while somewhat opaque, actually is least likely to be misunderstood since people have few other expressions to link to.

In fact, if we explain doctrines such as transubstantiation carefully, people, including youths, will find consubstantial meaningful.