Woke up to snow falling here in Chicago on this late March day.
Some of you may know that the Roman Missal translation issue has once again surfaced, this time in the British Catholic magazine The Tablet.
Some interesting reading and commentary here.
You may have noticed that I have been fairly quiet about the new translation for quite some time now. The issue is a thorny one for me. I have a deep sense of responsibility as the head of a publishing house committed to serving the needs of the singing and praying Church. But I am also a practicing Roman Catholic with a lived experience of the liturgy. And frankly, as one who blogs and who has honestly struggled as a "pew Catholic" with words and phrases that I often simply fail to understand and who has expressed those struggles here, I have found it easier simply to avoid the issue here. But I wanted to break the silence, at least a bit, today.
I have a deep care and respect for God's people, who have, I believe, a right and duty by reason of their baptism to voice their own thoughts and feelings about the liturgy and the lived faith of the Church.
Throughout my years-long efforts to catechize about the translation as we prepared to implement it here in the United States, I had my moments of doubt about whether or not this new "sacral vocabulary" would help or hurt. I had my moments when I chided my colleagues about jumping to conclusions about the success or failure of the new translation before the words had ever been prayed officially in the liturgy. I had my moments when, after the translation was implemented, I sensed a beauty in some of the texts that I had not sensed before. I had moments of intense joy and satisfaction when priests, many of whom had never embraced the chanting of the dialogues at Mass, worked to make those chants a part of their own celebratory style. I had my moments when my heart would ache for priests who were trying their hardest to communicate meaning but got trapped in the awkward structure of a given prayer or preface. I had my moments when, as an international priest celebrated the Mass, I would have to tune out because nothing about the newly translated texts made sense as he tried to struggle, first of all in a second language, and secondly, with a structure and syntax that in and of itself was foreign to him. All of those experiences have been shared publicly on this blog for years.
I want to repeat here what Bishop Trautman said in The Tablet, the words Pope Francis used in his address to the bishops of Brazil in 2013: "At times we lose people because they don't understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and impart an intellectualism foreign to our people."
"Lose people." Folks, at times in the past few years, I have felt lost myself. But, frankly, there is a part of me that just doesn't want to engage in the conversation any more. We have what we have and, as much as I detest the phrase, the fact is that "it is what it is." But what disturbs me and makes me so want to help those who continue to struggle with this translation is kind of a turn on that phrase; perhaps "it isn't what it is supposed to be." While this may appear like a sad and critical commentary on my part, I am still filled with hope that the Church will work toward developing an approach to translation that brings us what the Church's liturgical language is supposed to be, something that is easy to understand, easily grasped by the congregation and, ultimately, something that leads us into a deep encounter with the Lord that impels us to go forth and live the Gospel by our lives. So far, my own (and many others' experience of the new translation) has been a disappointment by and large. Remaining silent is certainly one course of action. I, for one, am glad to see the kind of engagement that appears on the pages of The Tablet.
Thanks for listening. And a blessed weekend of the Passion of the Lord to you all.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.