Thursday, February 16, 2012

New Translation Thursday: My Heart Is Sinking

"New Translation Thursday" greetings to you all.

Tuesday's post generated several comments, two of which I wanted to paste here. My friend in a neighboring diocese, a diocesan leader who has a masters degree in English, had this to say:

I find the disjointed ablative absolute structure, like that in the first part of the Prayer after Communion last week, very distracting, because the prayer does not begin with an address to God, but does that a couple lines in. It does not feel like a prayer.

Sadly, I really think the whole thing is too formal and forced... and that it has sapped the energy out of the Mass and is so difficult to comprehend that it merits being tuned out - and I have a masters degree in English. Can't imagine what the less-educated folks are thinking.

And my friend in a diocese to the south had this to say:

Just about every single Preface I've heard, regardless of who's speaking/chanting it, I've gotten lost. My sense is that most people tune it out, which is sad.

The last couple weekends, I've made a point of just stepping back and listening to the people's responses, sung or spoken. Their responses seem to have gotten more tepid with time. My heart sinks when I scan the congregation and see several long-time parishioners just stand silently during the Creed. The novelty has worn off now, and it seems like some older people (40+) have just given up.

On the upside, our schoolchildren seem to have learned the changes very well, and those few parishioners who attend daily mass have it down pat.

Yes, I know there are those for whom the new translation is a breath of fresh, wonderful air. But these two particular comments really made my heart sink. When I hear words used to describe the Mass, words like "tepid," "it does not feel like a prayer," "I've gotten lost," "long-time parishioners just stand silently," my heart sinks as well. If the situations described above become more widespread or become the norm, we are in deep trouble.

Where is the inspiration and energizing that we need from our leaders, the bishops? Seems to me like this new translation, along with the promise for liturgical catchesis, has been plopped in our laps, and now the bishops are on to their next big thing. Does something seem askew here?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Anonymous said...

Well, if by the "next big thing" you mean the outrageous trampling of our religious freedom by the Health & Human Services department, I'd say they had darn well better be getting on it!

There are plenty of folks with degrees more lofty than your friend's MA who find the new texts uplifting and sacred.

And, as for the Bishops plopping it in our laps, I see our Bishop prayerfully using the new translation every time he says Mass, setting a great example for both clergy and laity. I wonder what more we could ask?

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Hello my friend, FJH3rd. This is what confounds me about the whole thing. There are those, like you, for whom this new translation is absolutely, without a doubt, in a word, wonderful. And I greatly respect your opinion. And then there are those, like my other two friends that I quote today, for whom this new translation is causing confusion and pain. And I greatly repsect their opinion. You are all very dedicated Catholics, faithful to the core; how can you, the Body of Christ, be so divided?

Christian Cosas said...

I was the second person Jerry quoted above, and I just wanted to add a few things. First, that our clergy and liturgical ministries threw ourselves into catechesis and preparation for this new translation. There have been some rumblings among the more fervent supporters of this translation that, "Oh, well, the priest just isn't doing it slowly/reverently enough," or "You didn't catechize your congregation enough." Well, we did. I'm very proud of the work we put into preparing our whole church community for this. And I think we were all very successful in presenting it in a balanced way that didn't badmouth it right out of the gate.

I will say that in the past few weeks of Ordinary Time, every time I've stood up before mass to teach, reinforce, or correct a spoken response or chant related to the new translation (we're learning the ICEL chants for Lent now), I can see quite a few people who literally roll their eyes, as if to say, "Not more of THIS again." Our pastor and the lay head of our liturgical committee have both gotten complaints like, "Why do we have to SING everything now?" (We're not actually singing any more responses or acclamations than we did before, FYI.)

I still intend, in good faith, to do the best possible job I can with these changes. (Working on training the deacon on the new Exsultet, for instance.) But man, it's discouraging when it seems like some parishioners in this community that I've known and loved for over a decade have just given up on their worship.

Paul said...

FJH: Does that mean the Word of God and the mass is only for the most highly educated? What about my friend Joan, whose husband died years ago and she raised her kids working in the school cafeteria and just recently went back to get her GED? She's in the front pew each week and doesn't get why these changes were necessary. The Gospel is not only for the rich and elite.

Barbara said...

But man, it's discouraging when it seems like some parishioners in this community that I've known and loved for over a decade have just given up on their worship.

We didn't give up. Our worship was taken away from us.

And all this emphasis on "catechesis" just sounds like my mother trying to convince me to eat liver. She could tell me it was good for me until she was blue in the face. I still didn't like it.

Raymond said...

My experience is perhaps atypical because I attend a small parish in Canada that does not have a full time music minister. In fact at least one of our weekend Masses has very limited music at all - perhaps a couple of hymns and that is it.
Our pastor is a man of great warmth, humility and reverence. He's coping pretty well, but he doesn't have the same feel for the liturgy he had before and must read everything from the Missal to get things right. As a result he has his nose stuck in the Book all the time. He's pretty well stayed with the 3rd Eucharistic Prayer as far as I can tell.
Those in the pews who are used to reading along in a Missalette or responding from a pew card are getting things right. Those who prefer to listen and watch the Mass without referral to the written visual aids are struggling. I'm one of these and frankly I've found it best not to respond at all.
Anyone who though that this whole process would be seamless and painless seems to me to be rather naive. It's going to take more than a few months.

Anonymous said...

No, Paul, the fellow seemed to be saying that, with his MA, he was especially qualified to critique the new texts and found them wanting. My point was that even "more qualified" folks found them worthy.

Surely your friend who values education enough to go get her GED should be able to appreciate the value of putting forth some effort toward a goal. She will certainly encounter things in her studies that challenge her, right? Shakespeare, algebra, etc. These new texts are a bit challenging, but some feel that certain things are worth working hard for. Certainly the worship of the Lord is worth some effort.

The reasons for the changes have been exhaustively presented over the last couple of years.

Alias Kate said...

Our parish is making the best of it. My pastor spends much time in preparation to make these awkward grammatical structures intelligible and he's doing a good job, but I've yet to have one person comment on how uplifting and sacred these new texts are. By contrast, I have had intelligent people ask, "What is going on here?" To which, I reiterate the reasons for the changes. The trouble is, they are not compelling. We took something that wasn't broke -- the vernacular -- and "fixed it." That is not to say there was not a need for greater reverence, but frankly our parish was well on the way with proper catechesis and the gesture changes from the GIRM.

On the new translation, by contrast, I visited a church in the southwest over Christmas, and the preface was, in a word, painful. Either the presider was unprepared, or was just a poor reader, but his stumbling delivery only underscored the weaknesses of the text's structure.