America magazine has consistently given us thoughtful contributions to the missal problem. “For you and for who else,” for example, by Fr. Paul Philbert in the January 3rd issue. Excerpts from his conclusion:
The new English translation of the liturgical texts, which some claim to be more accurate and more faithful, is in fact expressed in English that is stilted, verbose and (as in the present case) theologically inadequate. …
In general, the new Missal’s language is of no help here. At a conference … the presenters offered as an example of a supposedly significant improvement in the translation of the Mass the following Collect (for Dec. 17):
Filled with the divine gift, Almighty God,
we beg you to grant our desire that,
enkindled by your Spirit,
we may blaze like bright torches
before the face of your Christ when he comes.
The Latin teacher … might well say to the translator, “Come on now, you can do better than that. Who talks like that?” Well, it appears we all will have to in a matter of months. Unless…
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The current issue of America has another important reflection, “Bringing Liturgy to Life” (subscription required). Steven P. Millies suggests that big risks are involved in using a “sacral vernacular” different from “everyday speech.” He writes,
If parishioners are aliented from the action of the Mass by lanugage that seems strange to them, then the church risks encouraging Catholics to isolate their faith from their lives at work, at school, at home and in the public square. …
Catholics in the United States have spent a long time climbing out of a ghetto imposed by an immigrant past. It would be a shame if the coming approach to liturgy became a new ghetto of the church’s own choosing, one that encloses us in a language so precious that we hesitate to use it outside the church.
Clearly Millies is talking about deep connections, not superficial cause and effect. We all know about Dorothy Day and many others who did great things in the social realm, nourished by the Latin liturgy. Of course it’s possible. Millies’ important question is whether the new translation could foster, unintentionally, a message that the ‘holy’ is to be kept pure, untainted by the modern world.
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Keep it up, America. Why do I have this feeling there will be more coming? As in, February 14th issue, “Signs of the Times”? Sometimes one gets these funny feelings.
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Let’s return briefly to the conclusion of Fr. Philibert’s article quoted above. What do you suppose his last word means?