Translation roundup

● “I heard something recently that greatly disturbed me,” the anonymous letter to Adoremus Bulletin begins. Seems that writer heard somewhere that lots of changes have been made to the missal translation as approved by the bishops’ conferences “without regard for consistency or fidelity to the original.”

The AB editors don’t want to believe it. “There is a whole lot of blogging going on about the new Missal translation,” they respond to the letter writer. “The complexity of the translation process almost invites confusion and speculation.” Their advice? “It is surely best to reserve judgment about unsubstantiated rumors one picks up on the internet (or elsewhere).”

Now, I don’t know whether “a whole lot of blogging” might refer to Pray Tell. It seems likely, since we have become a leading source for translation news on the web. Just in case they have Pray Tell in view, it is important to state clearly our pledge to our faithful readers: no speculation or unsubstantiated rumors here. Only the real stuff, with real sources.

● Objections to the revised text have been made known to the Holy See from many sides. Rome has received a detailed report of the problems in the revised Order of Mass, and the much more substantial problems in the proper prayers. The hope is that the deficiencies, or at least the most egregious of them, can still be addressed even though a final text with recognitio has been granted to some conferences, e.g. the U.S.

● Bishops and others from ICEL are meeting later this month with officials of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome. Any guesses what’s on the agenda?

Pray Tell recently reported that the German bishops are resisting missal revision. The week’s Tablet fills in a bit more. It is the sentiment of conference president Archbishop Robert Zollitsch that the present missal is widely accepted by priest and faithful, and this must not be endangered with a new missal. Cardinal Joachim Meisner, head of the national liturgical commission, said “I have always said that the Congregation for Divine Worship should go through our texts critically and see if we have translated the theological context correctly. But how we express ourselves in German is up to us German bishops.” The bishops are for keeping “for all” in the Eucharistic Prayer and not replacing it with “for many.”

● Fr. Anthony Foreman of Suffolk writes in to the Tablet that he had a trial run and read the new texts to 20 parishioners. “Their unanimous reaction was one of dismay, disappointment, irritation, and even amusement.” He concludes, “I can see squalls and storms ahead.”

● Did you see “Found in Translation” by Michael Cunningham in the NY Times last week? The author seems to have wanted to write two articles, one on translation and one on what it’s like to write a novel. The first bit is very interesting. Language “is made up of equal parts meaning and music. The sentences should have rhythm and cadence, they should engage and delight the inner ear. Ideally, a sentence read aloud, in a foreign language, should still sound like something, even if the listener has no idea what it is he or she is being told.” Hmm, I wonder if any of that applies to a missal translation.

● Jerry Galipeau over at “Gotta Sing, Gotta Pray” has changed his tone a bit recently about the new translation – in a more positive direction. This, for example: “I hope that I am not being naive as I see the Catholic faithful, clergy, vowed religious, lay leaders, and pew Catholics really begin to see the possibilities to deepen their appropriation of the meaning of the paschal mystery through the new translation.” I suppose many of us will move that direction as the real thing gets closer.

● I’m on the road and in the air a fair amount presenting on the new translation and the missal chants. I was in Memphis diocese a few weeks ago with parish musicians and with clergy and their bishop. The same next week in Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese. In such a setting, of course, I take a positive tone. I hope that I’m constructive and helpful to clergy and lay leaders who will be using the new missal. There is a time and place to critique the translation, and the process, I think. Liturgists and scholars and concerned members of the Church do this in academia, in journals, and did you know that some blogs do this? But there is a place also to do our very best with a missal which isn’t perfect, but is, after all, what the Church is giving us. In fact, whenever I explain and sing the new chants in front of a group of people, I’m pulled into a real enthusiasm for sung liturgy. I even start to get excited about the new missal.

● It’s been a long road, folks, and we’re not there yet. 17 years on one revised translation, all for naught, then some ten years on this translation which perhaps isn’t yet finalized. Lots of generous service to the Church, much of it gratis. Lots of people involved, and then many people shut out, and lots of hurt feelings. A missal which we hope will unite us, but know will probably divide us. There’s got to be a better way in our dear Church to pull together all the good will and good insights and expertise of liturgists and linguists and theologians and musicians and pastors. There’s got to be a better way to come to agreement on the fundamental principles and procedures, and then carry things out with openness and good collaboration between all levels of authority. May the Lord help us learn what He would have us learn from this whole episode.

● Some years ago I put a certain prayer into Latin for my own daily use. I’m using it a lot these days. Deus, da mihi serenitatem…

awr

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13 comments

  1. I gave a presentation a few days ago on the publishing company’s (WLP) experience of working with this new translation; for the MSM students at Notre Dame. I’m glad that I began with 1958, and the first resources published for the dialogue Mass, and resources published for congregations to sing their responses and chant ordinary in Latin (a non-verbal “translation” if you will); these, in turn, influenced a number of things done with the provisional translations (authorized and unauthorized) of the mid-1960’s. But based on some questions I’d received prior to the presentation, at least one person thought that the US bishops had requested this translation from Rome. And it was surprising to me how few people were aware that there had been that 17 yr. time frame in which a two volume Missal translation/revision was worked on, and that it began about 3 yrs. after the current translation was implemented, based on pastoral experience of that translation. Positively speaking, the whirlwind musical history tour (1958-present) of the vernacularization process from the WLSM/WLP archives seemed to moderate views across the spectrum.

  2. Twenty-seven years! to come up with this cant :

    For when the hour had come for him to be glorified by you, Father most holy, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end:
    and while they were at supper, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying,
    Take this, all of you, and eat of it: for this is my Body which will be given up for you.
    (new Eucharistic Prayer IV)

    We ridicule the Mass, we mock the English language, we abuse goodwill and generosity. We really should be ashamed.

  3. A comment seen on Fr Z’s blog by someone named kiwitrad: “Here in NZ the changes are being brought in at Advent this year. We have been given a booklet telling us what the changes are but there has been no mention of them from the pulpit, no teaching on WHY they are happening. The people who have mentioned it to me are really irritated by the changes: “change for change sake” and “It’s a pity the old men in the Vatican have nothing better to do” are common attitudes. When I try to explain it’s closer to the Latin I’m asked “Why?” If I explain it’s to deepen our understanding of what the Mass is about I’m told they KNOW what it’s about. We may be the first country in the world to introduce these changes in but I can see it’s going to be a disaster and I’m sad to say our Bishops are to blame.”

  4. Everyone human person and all human endeavors fall short of the “glory of God.” Sometimes I wonder if Catholics haven’t succumbed to a latent “Puritanism” when it comes to our Church, seeking that undefiled Bride of Christ found only in Utopia. But with that said and recognizing the fallen nature of the Church, both clergy and laity and the blessed hope we have for salvation found in Jesus Christ, let me add the following about the translation.
    Rather than constantly playing the blame game such as so many on the far right do castigating the bishops of the Second Vatican Council for the documents they wrote, why not make lemon aide out of lemons?
    It does seem to me that subsidiarity means that each parish, each small group and yes, each family and/or household should be pro-active in finding out why we have these translations, that the translation we will get is not infallibly declared to be perfect or pure and then learn why it was done and how it can be implemented in a mature non polemical fashion.
    I would recommend Paul Turner’s booklet “Understanding the Revised Mass Texts” by LTP. I will mail a copy of the booklet to each of our 2000 household a week or so prior to Lent. During Lent, we will try to increase the number of our “small faith groups” that meet in homes and provide for all leaders the “Leaders Guide” for this booklet, which consists of a seven session catechesis on the translation. Then in September until Advent 2011, we’ll catechize from the ambo and hopefully our bishop will allow us to implement the changes incrementally before that time. I will not encourage hand wringing, laments and castigation, we’ll leave that for Dante’s Inferno!

    1. We will need a catechetical programme in our parish as well, Father. In our case I think it will be important to avoid two related errors when we do this: the first is the hand-wringing and laments that you mention; the second is a kind of naive triumphalism announcing that this translation is “corrected” or “more true to the Latin” or “more beautiful” or “more sacred”, none of which will ring true to most of our parishoners and clergy. If we approach the new translation in a triumphalistic manner we will simply arouse anger and cynicism. It is what it is, the decision has been taken (however bad the translation is, however badly the process went) and we will get on and implement it.

  5. In our district of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese, we are following the implementation plan of the USCCB and as liturgy planners, we got a poster detailing the catechesis. One of our associates, a former liturgy director for the Diocese of Cleveland is leading a committee for the catechesis for the parishes within our district. Again, people need to order and read Keith Peckler’s excellent book The Genius of the Roman Rite:On the Reception and Implementation of the New Missal, and they should understand why the changes are being made, that the new missal follows the Roman Rite.

  6. “Rather than constantly playing the blame game such as so many on the far right do castigating the bishops of the Second Vatican Council for the documents they wrote, why not make lemon aide out of lemons?”

    The critics of the New Translations at the What If We Just Said Wait? site are mostly NOT people who constantly play the blame game, just as the people who expressed outrage about the Iraq invasion in the spring of 2003 were mostly not people who played the blame game. The outrage in both cases was generated by the objective problems, not by pregiven psychopathology.

  7. “pro-active in finding out why we have these translations” — see the review of the book by the Scottish bishop who tells the reasons why — and very nasty reasons they are — in the latest Tablet.

    “I will not encourage hand wringing, laments and castigation, we’ll leave that for Dante’s Inferno!”

    The new translation will produce negative effects on the worshipping community — torpor, melancholy and indifference at best, gnashing of teeth and rage at worst (or vice versa).

    1. So glad to know you can predict the future, Joe. Personally, my crystal ball sees joy and increased “active participation. ” Let’s re-group in a couple of years and see who guesses correctly.

  8. Fr. Anthony writes: “There is a time and place to critique the translation, and the process, I think. Liturgists and scholars and concerned members of the Church do this in academia, in journals, and did you know that some blogs do this? But there is a place also to do our very best with a missal which isn’t perfect, but is, after all, what the Church is giving us. In fact, whenever I explain and sing the new chants in front of a group of people, I’m pulled into a real enthusiasm for sung liturgy. I even start to get excited about the new missal.”

    This is a very important statement, I share the sentiment. I think we all need to read it carefully and learn from it.
    Thanks Fr. Anthony!

  9. John Drake, you foresee “joy and increased ‘active participation'”, yet your prophecy can be empirically checked already: can you find ONE SINGLE indication of joy and increased participation in South Africa, where the ghastly new translations have already been foisted on the anglophone faithful; there is a mountain of evidence of the opposite there.

  10. Joe O’Leary is correct. Although we in South Africa are almost two years into the ‘new’ translations (the people’s parts, no presidential prayers as yet), I would challenge anyone to say it has brought about any positive effect. People must still revert to ad hoc printed leaflets for the Gloria and Creed (save in those congregations which have now chosen to use the Apostles Creed and given up entirely on the Nicene). Folks have pretty much caught on to ‘And with your Spirit’, but ‘It is right and just’ begs for some completion. The 1998 revisers had it right. How tragic that they were dismissed.
    Judith Coyle
    Johannesburg
    South AFrica

    1. I am very interested in this observation–that after almost two years, people still don’t have the Gloria, Creed (what about the Confiteor?) memorized. I had been hoping that, for weekly Mass-goers, we could manage this in three-six months, at the most.

      Is there any difference between congregations that sing the Gloria vs. those that don’t?

      Is the lack of memorizing because people are not picking up the leaflets, and just letting “someone else” do the praying? Or have they been using the leaflets and just still not getting it?

      The shift to Apostles Creed doesn’t surprise me; I anticipate that happening in lots of places.

      I would really like to hear more details about the South African experience, now that you have had some time with them.

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