Tuesday, August 7, 2012

New Translation Tuesday: "A Mess"

"New Translation Tuesday" greetings. A rather long post today, but please stick with it.

I received a letter yesterday:

Dear Jerry,
I read with interestand some alarmyour comments on The Roman Missal in the Intro to the current Seasonal Missalette.
You like it!
This is a priest who has offered Mass since 1956. When I first saw this Roman Missal, it forced me to check on the liturgy document from Vatican II.
I found that every norm for the promotion of good liturgy in Paragraphs 21-36 was laid aside and broken.
What we have is nigh a blasphemy to God and to His people. A mess.
The words which should lead to the Mystery have now become the mystery unto themselves, barring access to the Mystery.
And you find inspiration?
You and J.S. Paluch have taken a far tumble in my estimation.
Sorry, Buddy, but I disagree 100% with you!

P.S. It's a Trialnot any pleasureto read the Mass text.

These types of letters are certainly difficult to read. Here is a man, a priest for 56 years, who is echoing the sentiments of many, many priests I have spoken with since the advent of the new translation. I wanted to share with you what it was that I wrote in the Seasonal Missalette. I have been writing a short article that appears on the inside cover of our missal resources for about twelve years now. The article is entitled "Liturgical Reflections on the Season." Here is the text:

Liturgical Reflections on the Season
Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way, your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

This short section is taken from the Gospel of Saint Mark proclaimed on October 28, the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time. As we continue with the implementation of the newly translated texts at Mass, we can make the words of the blind man our own, asking the Lord, “Master, I want to see.” We are not talking about sight in the physical sense; here we are talking about sight in the spiritual sense. Many of us are paying much closer attention to the prayers at Mass now, chiefly because they sound so different to ears that had become accustomed to hearing the same prayers for decades in the former translation. Perhaps we can seize this opportunity to ask the Lord to lead us more deeply into an appreciation of what these texts can mean in our lives. In other words, echoing the words of the blind man, we can say, “Master, I want to see.”

I know that my own experience at Mass has shifted pretty dramatically since the advent of this new translation of The Roman Missal. Sometimes some of the newly translated prayers are hard for me to comprehend when I hear them prayed aloud. At other times, certain phrases strike me instantly as inspiring and they touch me deeply. As a person sitting in the pews at my parish, Saint James, located on the near South Side of the city of Chicago, I have found myself paying much closer attention to the prayers that our pastor prays at Mass. There is such richness in them. The Church has consistently taught that the prayers we pray at Mass create for us a locus theologicus. This simple Latin phrase means “the site or the place where theology is expressed.” In other words, the Church teaches that our very Catholic beliefs are expressed in the prayers that are prayed at Sunday Mass. When someone asks me, “What do Catholics believe?” my first inclination is not to point them in the direction of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. That can come later. My first inclination is to say to them, “You want to know what Catholics believe? Go to a Sunday Mass in any parish. Or better yet, go to a parish and attend liturgies during Holy Week. Just pay careful attention to the readings, the prayers, the music, and the ritual, and there you will discover the core of what Catholics believe.”

The new translation of The Roman Missal offers us the opportunity to embrace the Mass prayers in a renewed way. We have a choice to make. Some of us can simply settle into old ways of letting the prayers merely wash over us, paying little attention to them. Or, hopefully, we can be much more attuned to what is being prayed. God continues the work of redemption, through Christ, as the Mass is prayed. And that means that God is working that redemption on each and every one of us who sits in the pews week in and week out.

Why not take the opportunity before Mass to ask the Lord to help you to be more attentive, more attuned to the richness of our Catholic beliefs expressed in the prayers at Mass? Let’s make our prayer the same as the blind man in the Gospel: “Master, I want to see.”

  So, I wrote to the priest who sent the letter. I told him that I really felt for him. I also clarified a few things and told him that this has been a very difficult and challenging time for me as a worshipping Catholic as I struggle to grasp the meaning of many of the newly translated prayers. To be honest, folks, my heart was aching for this priest of 56 years. Two things from his letter have haunted me since I received it:. The first is this phrase: "The words which should lead to the Mystery have now become the mystery unto themselves, barring access to the Mystery." And the second was his shortest sentence: "A mess."   I would appreciate your comments and perhaps clues as to what you would have said to this elderly priest.   Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Anonymous said...

From a priest ordained nearly 58 years .I agree with my younger Confrere.This is the result of "liturgical amateurs" like Msgr Wadsworth of England ,who attacked the Liturgy at the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin,taking control in the Vatican !!!! they are also seizing control in the USA.

Mary said...

I think that there are indications for opening a dialog on the issue.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the priest ordained 56years. I am a pastoral associate in a parish, responsible for liturgy and I find it very difficult to pray the prayers.This weeks collect is one sentence with three commas that doesn't make sense if you listen to it. I find the grammar and syntax very dificult. This translation is anything but prayerful. I have noticed more and more people at Sunday liturgy with their rosaries and novena books out. Parishioners tell me they will let the priest do..."the saying and they will do the praying on their rosaries and in their personal prayer books." The young people do not seem to be paying much attention.I pray it gets better but I don't think the bishops are listening to the the people in the pew.

FJH 3rd said...

Well, it seems to me the future rests not with the 58 year veteran priests but with the young guys who, in my experience, have whole-heartedly embraced the new corrected translation. Last night I experienced a Mass celebrated by a priest ordained maybe 5 or 6 years ago. It was clear that he loved the new texts; he pronounced every sentence with devotion and care.

So there's not any accusation of age-ism, I have also seen a 60 year veteran priest say the new words lovingly as well. Granted, he stumbles a bit, but what would you expect after 40 years of reciting the 1970 translation.

Your correspondent speaks of reading the Mass text as being a "trial". Wasn't Calvary a trial for our Lord?

Anonymous said...

Jerry, it won't surprise you to hear that I am very much in agreement with your correspondent. I find the new words to be clumsy, the sentences over-long and the syntax indecipherable. The new Credo breaks up the assembled family of God ("We believe") into a group of disparate individuals ("I believe"). The new Roman Canon contains many monsters. The repeated use of "O God, who..." jars with modern English usage on both sides of the Atlantic. I am yet to discover what the "blessed hope" is that we await in addition to the coming of our Lord and Saviour.

The Prayer after Communion for Advent 1 is so badly worded that the USCCB's own website wrote an article explaining it. Sounds fair, I guess, only the author of the article interpreted the text incorrectly.

"Chalice" is the wrong word (calyx is a cup), and is followed immediately by "When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup..."

In both churches where I normally worship, "Glory to you, O Lord" has reverted to the '73 "Glory to you, Lord", and "...and all his holy church" has, equally, lost its "holy".

In addition, the manner in which we arrived at the new text leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. The CDW should be ashamed of itself; never has there been a less appropriate name than Vox Clara; the English-speaking bishops conferences have failed us all by abandoning their Council-given authority to prepare the translations.

The only two highlights of the new translation, for me at least, are "like the dewfall" and "Go in Peace, Glorifying the Lord by Your Life".

Overall, however, I agree. It is a mess. A stinking mess.

Paul Robertson

peregrinus_sg said...

It's very, very sad to see a Priest making ad hominem attacks on another Priest on a public platform. Such childishness is unbefitting of someone over the age of 60s. Oh wait, what was this about a second childhood they say?

Other than a few clunkiness here and there, the new translation does an admirably good job really. The syntax is not ordinary English and there are pluses and minuses over there. But some of the "difficulties" arise from deliberate multifaceted allusions so that different Catholics in different stages of their life can relate to them differently. This is a legitimate big tent in Catholicism, as opposed to the wrongful dissent that gets passed along as variety.

I always found it silly to say "We believe" when I was attending Mass next to a Sister of St Joseph back in my university days. First, I know we don't quite believe the same things, even with regard articles in the Creed. Second, she drops each "uninclusive" term in the old translation or substitutes with something else. If by saying "we" we are an assembled family of God, we have merely proven ourselves to be a dysfunctional family where under the facade of "we" is actually a fiercly individualistic, unyielding "I".