Friday, March 27, 2015

The Roman Missal: Breaking My Silence

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.


John Drake said...

Jerry, I want to be sympathetic, but I just don't get it. I go to daily Mass, pay close attention (usually!), have a nice hand missal, and have no problem understanding the words. I can see the issue with a priest whose English is a second language, but even under the older translation I found those with heavy accents difficult to understand.

Ultimately, the best solution is what Fr. Zuhlsdorf proposed back in the run-up to the new translation: Put the celebration back in Latin, and let publishers use whatever translation they want for the English side of the missal!

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Thank you for your comment, John. Your "best solution" is one that would have me counted among the lost.

Linda Montgomery said...

I consider myself fairly well educated in terms of religious formation, theological study, and practice of the faith. But when it comes to the new translation, there ARE times I scratch my head. I applaud the efforts made to provide us with translations that have been developed as we have grown in understanding of original texts, etc. But we are still not there. Hopefully, it won't take decades and decades to progress beyond where we are.

Joseph Burgio said...

I worked in the Roman Catholic Church for over 30 years. The new translation was really the beginning of the end for me. I am now serving as an interim musician in a Lutheran church. When I have a free weekend, I worship in another Lutheran church, or an Episcopal church. where I can pray using the ICEL translation that worked. Need I say how vibrant the singing is in these congregations, and how moved I am by it?

Jean Ceithaml said...

Keep hoping that one day they will get it right! Since I grew up in a Latin church, experienced Vatican II while attending a Catholic University, and worked and worshipped in the church during many turmoils, I thank God that my faith is strong, despite continual (and not always the best for us) change.

Diezba said...

Disappointed to see you've written this. I could not disagree more or more strongly with what you've written.

I am grateful to have, for the first time from an official Church source, the whole Mass faithfully translated in my native tongue.

Every time I see the old collects in my breviary, I say a prayer that things like that will never be promulgated by the church again; I also pray that men like the Tablet author will fail in their attempt to restore either the 1974 or 1998 paraphrases.

I agree with the first commenter: either let us move toward hieratic English from the good step of the 2010 Missal, or let us return to the practice of the first post-conciliar Missals, from 1964 & 1965, and let us pray the Mass together in our common mother's tongue: Latin.

Benjamin Story said...

The new translation was the final straw for my wife and I (both cradle Roman Catholics). Many of our other issues we could pray on and urge change from within, but when the Liturgy itself changed, we had to go find a new faith home.

Looking at the other comments, it makes me wonder why there isn't enough room for those who find God in the Latin Mass, those who find Him in accessible English and those who find Him in sacral English to all be part of one Church. We all come to God from different places so one size does not fit all.

As a music minister in a faith community that still uses the 1973 translation, I will continue to participate in the black market of acquiring "old" translation Mass settings and texts with hope that someday we'll be welcome once again within a large tent Roman Rite.

Anonymous said...

I used to attend Mass daily. Since the new translation I go when I'm obligated and only because I'm obligated. I regularly ask myself why I bother and it's getting harder each week to convince myself to go.

Greg said...

True story: I was chatting with a co-worker who is trying to get his family (young kids) interested in Church; he doesn't want to push them, but he is drawn to the Catholic Church. The kids don't want to go because they can't understand the priest. I asked him if it was the native language of the presider or the homily that was the issue. He said no, it was the prayers. They simply don't understand them and are bored.

Anonymous said...

If someone attends mass 52 times a year, and a few more than that, they should have no problem understanding ANY of the translations or terms used. It's not quantum physics. Come on...