Ed. note: The following letter, by Pray Tell reader Chris McDonnell, was published in The Catholic Herald.
We have now reached the point where, apparently, there is no turning back.
In the coming months we will attempt to come to terms with changes that, for all the arguments regarding adherence to the original Latin, make little sense in the English usage of our time. The process whereby the New Translation of the Roman Missal has been delivered leaves so many questions unanswered and seriously challenges respect for the collegiality of our bishops. We must wait and see how our priests and people respond to what is coming shortly to a church near you.
May I make a plea that in all our discussion and, at times, serious divergence of opinion, we maintain two important threads? First, that the attempt to take the church back to pre-Vatican II days has no part in the Christian experience some forty years later. There should be no talk about the “good guys” winning as William Oddie wrote in his article in the Catholic Herald in mid-February. We are all pilgrims in a pilgrim church and we have to find a way forward that is respectful and not triumphalist.
And secondly, and most importantly, we should recognise that the celebration of the Eucharist is central to our Christian lives.
The great sadness in all of this furor is that the celebration of the Eucharist where we should, in faith, be gathered in a shared belief round the table of the Lord will become a matter of dissension.
All of this could have been avoided if the process of arriving at this translation had shown greater understanding of current English usage rather than sought a literal translation from a dead language into a living one.
W H Auden, in his poem “If I could tell you” , written in October 1940, begins with these three lines.
Time will say nothing but I told you so,
time only knows the price we have to pay;
if I could tell you I would let you know
That, I am afraid, is a neat and poignant summary of our present position.