Time for a pause

Now that the English-speaking world has experienced the new translation, maybe it is time to pause. Initial reactions are rarely confirmed by the longevity of experience; sometimes we need to stand back a while to see just where we are.

Many of us have been highly critical in recent months both of the process of preparation of the new texts and of the outcome from those deliberations that has brought us to this point; I include myself in that group. After our experience in England over recent months since September I do not find myself wavering in that critical opinion.

The translation of an ancient vernacular, Latin, into 20th century English, may have had its problems after the Second Vatican Council but for many of us it became the familiar and acceptable norm. The contrast between the two languages was significant and clear cut then. Now that we have recently moved to a new translation that is within the same linguistic context as that of the last forty years, but varies in detail to match strict translation criteria from the Latin, imposed by Rome, is it no wonder that we are critical of the result. People pray within the language and culture of their time rather than in the holy comfort zone of words that had meaning many centuries ago. Language is a dynamic, lived experience. Scattering the text with which we pray the Eucharist with “graciously,” “chalice,” and a literal translation of the story of the centurion’s servant, to take but a few examples, does not help us.

However we must be realistic.  This is where we are, the new translation is in use; now how do we manage?

We can take the short view that all is lost and walk away, grumbling – but to what end? And where do we go ? Our home is the Church, our parish families come together each week for the Eucharist; splintering that community achieves little other than upset and confusion.

We can stay and silently pray while around us unfamiliar words from both celebrant and people sound somewhat strange and we try to remember in our personal quiet spaces the words and phrases that have been familiar to us over years of Eucharistic prayer. That attitude, in itself, is fragmentary. Yet it is one that I find myself slipping into since we first started using the new translation this past September.

Or we can take a third option, that of expectation and hope. The words of Jesus as he approached his disciples by the lake “It is I, do not be afraid” (John 6:21) should speak to all of us when we are in circumstances of fear or distress. Just now, we are in such a time.

I have recently finished Robert Nugent’s book, Silence Speaks (Paulist Press, 2012) in which he outlines the positions of Teilhard de Chardin, Yves Congar, John Courtney Murray and Thomas Merton in respect to church authority. Their experience is salutary.

Although they dealing with different issues, the vexed question of censorship, there is a lesson that we can learn from the experience of these men. To have an opinion is important, to pursue the argument in support of that opinion is valid, to act in conscience is essential. But it is also necessary carefully to choose language that helps rather than hinders and to be patient for the right time in which to make pertinent comment. Raising the temperature by intemperate words helps no one.  In the present circumstance it will only serve to impede our experience of eucharistic praying.

Maybe in the coming months, our people will be heard by the bishops and revision of the texts will be considered. It would seem that the positive option would be for individuals and groups to write to their bishop, asking for appreciation and understanding of our difficulties. The hierarchies have been singularly silent in acknowledgement of honestly-held disagreements with the new translation. But then their own position has been undermined by Rome, collegiality has been over-ridden and local needs ignored.

It would be a significant sign of recognition if the bishop were to ask his priests and people for their views in the coming months. Listening is a sure sign of wise leadership just as much as the many pronouncements that we are used to hearing.  Is it little wonder that we have problems with the results?

Above all, we must support each other and appreciate views that differ from our own.   Some of the more hysterical comments that have appeared on the blogosphere in recent weeks do not sit comfortably with a pilgrim church seeking to meet the current missionary purpose of the people.

The discussion is about sincerely-held views on language and a recognition that English across our planet in not one universal language, but one that has tones and nuances. The episcopal conferences have been sidelined by the imposition of a translation that seeks to meet all needs, but doesn’t in fact do so. Local concern of bishops for their local church has been supplanted by a centralized statement from Rome that all must accept.

Henri Nouwen often writes of the contrast between fear and love. In his book Lifesigns (1986; page 21) he says “… the house of love is the house of Christ, the place where we can think, speak and act in the way of God-not in the way of a fear-filled world. From this house the voice of love keeps calling out: “Do not be afraid…come and follow me…see where I live…go out and preach the good news…”

Thomas Merton concludes his journal Woods, Shore, Desert (Museum of New Mexico Press, 1982) with the phrase “Hang on to the clear light.”

We could do well to remember both Nouwen and Merton as we struggle together in a difficult place.

Chris McDonnell is a retired schools head teacher living in the Midlands of England. This article is reprinted with permission from the January/February 2012 issue of  SPIRITUALITY (Dublin).

83 comments

  1. I recall reading of a similar pep talk being delivered to the Jews who were being rounded up for “a pleasant train ride into the countryside.” Of course, that finished poorly. One should never ignore the given in hope for what will come. Work to change and end the present mess.

    I refer to Fritz’s comment from another thread. If you desire change within the Roman Catholic Church there is only one way to secure it: The thermonuclear option (cut off the money down to the last centavo). You would be surprised how quickly all matters could be resolved.

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    1. Janet,

      I am not the moderator of this blog, so I can’t rein in your ridiculous game playing, nor ban you for the mind-boggling poor taste of comparing having to put up with a translation you don’t like to other people’s experience of genocide. But I can at least note that you are misrepresenting my words. In describing the withholding of money as the “thermonuclear option” I was hardly proposing it as an effective means of change. Of course, I am sure you know this, and were only trying to get a rise out of me. Congratulations, you succeeded.

      Enjoy your new year.

      1. Fritz, Fritz, Fritz…..two quickies on my way out the door. First, the comparison to the Jewish experience is to succinctly demonstrate the disaster of doing and saying nothing in the face of a horrible situation (the new mess is pretty horrible…no, not the the level of genocide, but horrible nonetheless) and I never said that you proposed the option. To my knowledge, which is admittedly limited, you were the first to refer to it in that manner (at least the first that I had ever read).

        Have no fear, I have better things to do that to try to get you to rise and a Cha, Cha, Cha new year to you and yours!

      2. Whether you like it or not, Janet’s image contains at least one truth. What she expressed as a comparison you are interpreting as an analogy. She did not claim that every aspect of the new dispensation is paralleled by the holocaust. The single point which I take from her comparison is that it when an abuse of power takes place it is naive and dangerous to ignore it.
        There are times when the setniments behind “For want of a nail” are appropriate. It is your reaction which is out of proportion and in poor taste.

    2. Janet, your overly broad and sweeping comparison of what happens when we are silent in the face of dissent points to something that includes, but goes far beyond simple bad taste.

      Yes – not speaking up in many circumstances ends up in senseless death. However, this is not the case here. Your words demean what happens in those cases and do nothing to help here.

      This makes me very sad and very angry.

    3. “…a similar pep talk being delivered to the Jews who were being rounded up for “a pleasant train ride into the countryside.”

      That comparison is unspeakably inappropriate in this context.

      Really.

      It is a malignant trivialisation of something profound.

      Repent of the comparison, please. It virtually guarantees that whatever merit your point might otherwise have will remain utterly obscured.

      1. Janet’s comments are reminiscent of the quotation attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984):

        First they came for the communists,
        and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

        Then they came for the trade unionists,
        and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

        Then they came for the Jews,
        and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

        Then they came for me
        and there was no one left to speak out for me.

        It is a quotation frequently employed to raise people’s awareness of the moral evil of not standing up to injustice. Those who use it are not implying that the moral evil they believe should be confronted is comparable to what the Nazis did to communists, trade-unionists or Jews.

        Janet is not implying anything remotely similar to the hyperbole which her comments have elicited.

    1. Apart from your knee-jerk reaction, do you have anything constructive to add to the original posting?

      My position is that the Vatican’s usurping of the power of bishops’ conferences to produce their own translations, a responsibility recognised and entrusted to them by Sacrosanctum concilium, ought to be a matter of grave concern to the Catholic faithful.

  2. While I personally prefer to corrected translation to the one just discarded, I find it odd that Catholics would walk away from the Church based upon the language or translation of the Mass. Is that not idolatry? We don’t worship a language, we worship God who is universal and unchanging. I understand human psychology and misplaced loyalties and heightened feelings, but if the old translation had been retained, or Latin mandated or Spanish made the universal language of the Mass, how could that deter one from following Jesus as a Catholic if not for misplaced loyalties? It is like the person who refuses to receive Holy Communion from an Extraordinary Minister, although a priest is not distributing, is it not still the Lord one is receiving?

    1. The reason that the language matters to many people is that those actual words were the very embodiment of the mass. It was the regular use of those words for so long (for many of us our entire lives) which acted as the rock that we could always rely on to always be there. To us, Mass was the liturgy that used those words. Changing the words of the mass meant that it was no longer “mass” to us, but rather some other liturgy that was now being called mass.

      Plus, for some of us, the new level of formality that is being used in the new translation has diminished the intimate relationship with God that we experienced each week in our prayers at mass.

      It’s not a worship of language – but language is a very personal thing to many people. The forceful removal of such an intimate familiarity between us and our creator has caused so much hurt, anger, pain, sadness, and despair.

      An ideal solution would have been to have given parishes the option of using a new “traditional” translation of the mass, alongside the previous “modern” translation. This way, parishes would have had a choice over which liturgy they wished to offer, based on their parishioners’ preferences. The more traditional people could attend a traditional English liturgy, and those who prefer the 1973 liturgy would be able to attend masses that used that liturgy. But, by not choosing to offer both liturgies, the leadership has created a situation that has distanced many people.

      1. “It was the regular use of those words for so long (for many of us our entire lives) which acted as the rock that we could always rely on to always be there. To us, Mass was the liturgy that used those words. Changing the words of the mass meant that it was no longer “mass” to us, but rather some other liturgy that was now being called mass. “

        Thank you for this, Sean. In four decades of discussion, I have never seen or heard a more precise and evocative description of how people of my generation felt when the Mass of centuries of our forefathers was changed abruptly, not only in its language but in its ritual more powerful than language. Though I’d estimate the current change of language to be somewhere between 1% and 5% of that we endured then, though most of those I knew personally remained faithful to the Church.

      2. CHE,

        I know that truth isn’t determined by numbers or polls. Still,the sentiments of the faithful are important and should be taken into account.

        One difference betrween then and now is that then, most of the faithful by far saw the reasons for change and accepted them. (Maybe then-high obedience to church authority played a role, I grant.) Those who didn’t accept the changes – who are also valued members of the church, of course – were rather few in number.

        Now, it seems that most do not see a reason for the changes, and the catechesis/propoganda/spin of officialdom isn’t working.

        I agree that there are similarities between then and now – changes hurt people. But there are interesting differences, too.

        Pax,

        awr

      3. Fr. Ruff,

        I was there in the mid 1960s. What many or most, including myself and most I knew, then (circa 1965) welcomed with enthusiasm, was Mass in the vernacular. Even now, I believe that permitting the extraordinary form in the vernacular (while preserving it also in traditional Latin) would greatly broaden its appeal to the faithful.

        What many or most did not welcome later (circa 1970) was what they (correctly or incorrectly) perceived as changes in the nature and structure of the Mass itself, ones that seemed to invite a wide range of abuse of what they thought to be the intent of the liturgy.

        These two issues–the language and the substance of the Mass–should be separated in discussing approval or disapproval (then and now) of liturgical changes.

      4. Data on what people thought in the 60s and 70s?

        All the data I’ve seen (polls, studies, not just anecdotes) suggests that support for the liturgical reform increased then.

        I’m not discounting your view or how strongly you hold it. I am questioning whether a large number share(d) your view, since the evidence suggests otherwise.

        awr

      5. Therein lies the rub, is top down only acceptable when it is accepted? Obviously Vatican II’s reforms were top down mandated and at the time well received, although the laity were quite use to top down decisions and didn’t expect a say in things. The more liberal allowance of the EF was a bottom-up phenomenon, most parishes were required to poll parishioners to see if a stable group actually desired it (I did at least) and then those who wanted it got it. But the permission was top down–I couldn’t begin celebrating this form of the Mass without papal approval. In terms of the current translation, certainly there are those on this blog who decry the politics of how it came about but even if the 1998 version had been accepted, it would have been a top down implementation, I see no other way to do something like this without a top down authoritative decision whether one likes the decision or not.

      6. My comment, Fr. Ruff, was intended as an anecdotal description of what I observed personally in the 1960s and 1970s–among I perceived to be a majority in quite liberal parishes where I was sufficiently in contact to be (for instance) elected to parish councils and RE committees, etc. That is, general satisfaction when the vernacular was introduced in the mid 1960s, and growing disquietude in the 1970s as some of the other effects began to be felt.

        Of course, the usual broad assertions of this history–mine as well as yours–should be careful nuanced by admission that these past liturgical events were complex and multi-layered (including the previously mentioned bifurcation between reaction to the vernacular and reaction to other aspects of the liturgical reform).

        As a supporter of the OF which I appreciate in many ways–despite the fact that I regularly (though not exclusively) attend the EF when I do not find the OF celebrated in those ways–I would agree that, if the Mass of Paul VI had from its inception been celebrated in a “Say the black, do the red” manner, then that disquietude likely would not have risen, and by now a quite glorious implementation of Sacrosanctum Consilium likely would be perceived instead.

      7. Statistical surveys are important, but are just a small mosaic bit. I’m reminded of the endless economic data churned out by countries. Often these surveys couch data in a positive way by presenting a selective picture of a situation. I don’t know about the methodology of the surveys discussed here. While I don’t doubt that many, if most, American Catholics in the late 1960s and early 1970s generally approved of vernacularization and the 1970 Missal, I also suspect that perspectives were more nuanced than what could be grasped by phone polling.

        I doubt that any of us will live to see a truly comprehensive picture of the first fifty years after liturgical reform. I often wonder what Jansenism looked like for scholars and clergy in the thick of the social and theological movement. It’s not as if Port-Royal and the Gregorian had competing blogs to thrash out liturgical and theological issues. What is most compelling right now might prove quite inconsequential fifty or one hundred years from now, in large part because of the way discourse has changed.

    2. The problem is simply that…the language has been made an idol by the powers that be in the church…as a person in the pew (or at least used to be in the pew) I don’t have to accept that words have to be translated into something that sounds like gobbledygook…precisely WHY are the words being treated as so important that they have to be translated word for word (and you obviously can’t do that in using languages that have two different bases!)…no, the people are reacting to words made “magic”, “idols”…the message of Jesus is no longer understandable (nor is it often taught nor lived)…the language switch is merely the last straw in a long experience of going to church and not hearing the Word of God…nor seeing it carried out by church leaders.

    3. Oh Fr. Allan, right back at it… “…the one just discarded….” Well, the clear majority of Catholics were fine when V2, the People of God, the Spirit all in union, “discarded” the previous Mass.

      So be careful, things once “discarded” can always return 🙂

      1. If it returns and a stable group requests it or if it is mandated, I’ll be the first to be celebrating it. But the question is, which version of the “discarded translation” will I use since it was ad libbed so much? Was there really a 1973 missal that the laity heard from their priests or did they hear their priest’s version of it? 🙂

      2. While I am aware that some priests have taken it upon themselves to improvise (which will apply to this translation, if not more so), I have not really experienced it. My diocese, Gaylord, was fortunate to have Patrick Cooney as bishop for many years. His education and expertise was liturgy, and so I find the Mass to be rather vibrant, but faithful to the text and rubrics in Northern Michigan.

        I just played for a wedding where the presider was from another diocese. In preparation, I said we would be singing the Glory to God, per the new Missal. He replied by saying, well, I wouldn’t bother with it, but if you want to, fine – just don’t expect them to sing it! I thought what a sad thing to say and believe. They sang it just fine, btw.

      3. I haven’t had a nuptial Mass in the revised translation yet and I find it peculiar that the missal states that the penitential act is omitted but the Gloria is sung/said–I see no problem in the Gloria being sung and am grateful that this is now stated explicitly, but how did the priest go from the greeting to the Gloria without a penitential act ? It seems to me that a very near future reform of the Rite of Marriage will be to place the consent, vows and exchange of rings in the place of the penitential act then go directly to the Gloria at which point the couple will already be wed which would be a modification of the EF way of celebrating nuptials and in continuity with what is currently done in the OF for the Rite of Sprinkling Holy Water, taking the place of the penitential act and the greeting of the deceased and rites associated with that in the OF Funeral Mass where the penitential act is also omitted.

    4. Fr Allan, I know several Catholics who have moved to anglicanism simply for linguistic and musical reasons. They are looking for God.

      1. I’ve always had a strong respect for high Anglicanism and the manner in which they celebrate the liturgy. I think they will have a gravitational pull on us as they form their own Ordinariate and keep in mind in my previous parish I hired a full time music director who is high Anglican and currently I have a full time United Methodist music director–knows more about the liturgy in both forms than I do!

  3. Chris McDonnell’s appeal for constructive dialogue deserves serious support. But we do need it to be well-informed. We need the advice of qualified professionals in Latin, English (poets!), liturgy, church history, etc, etc. This is too serious a matter to be decided by personal likes and dislikes, however well-intentioned.

  4. All true statements, Fr. Allan…but, isn’t LA and the new translation exactly based upon the premise of “idolatry” – making the “original” latin something to be “worshipped” (and historically, it really was not original). We don’t worship a language and yet LA and the tiny power group methods reveal their own heightened feelings (insecurity, need for power, take your pick?). And your final example is a good one but, unfortunately, one can work out the EM vs. Father routine without really impacting the community unlike this translation.

    1. I should be clear that while I personally like that the Magisterium insisted that the English translation be accurate to what the Latin is, not only in word for word but also theology, devotion and piety, I recognize that there are many ways to translate into English. All one has to do is to look at the various English translations for the missals of the laity prior to Vatican II. But the genius of our Catholic faith is that there is the theology of obedience to authority in the areas of faith, morals and canon law (nothing else if I’m correct) and this along with Jesus Christ is what unifies Catholics in controversial situations where tastes and personal preferences could be rather divisive.

  5. Although I truly recognize all sides, and the lament over the process of revisions (to my good friends I apologize for this), off the top of my head I would ask, in light of real global disaster, are we really in a mess?

    I am happy to report in the parish where I work all has gone rather smoothly. We have had consistent, positive catechesis which continues as we pray the texts. In my view this is the most important catechesis – this is our mystagogy – and this should continue for many many months.

    Sadly, I have heard reports where priests are not praying the revised prayers. This I fear will lead to confusion in the pews.

    Personally, at first I didn’t feel as though I was praying; I was so caught up in the words, and some words continue to be jarring. However, the words “for better or for worse” come to mind, as well as ” all will be well, and all will be well, in all matter of thing, all will be well” (Julian of Norwich).

    1. “For better of for worse.” Try consoling a victim of ongoing domestic violence that (s)he made this promise at her/his wedding!

    2. Is it possible that the smooth transition has resulted from a general feeling by the laity that “there’s nothing we can do about it, so even though we don’t like it, we have to do it”?

      Forcing such a change on people might get their outward compliance, but it also may cause a diminishing of the status that the church holds in that person’s mind. Too many of these can eventually push someone over the proverbial cliff.

      I’m just basically saying that a lack of resistance or objections from people doesn’t mean that they are happy with the change or that they don’t think the church did something that they shouldn’t have done.

      1. No, Sean, it is a reality that many folks actually LIKE the new words! I know you can’t grasp that fact, but quite a good many, do indeed LIKE the new, corrected translation!

  6. re: Janet Darcy on January 2, 2012 – 9:28 am

    In a March 6 1982 address to bishops on Catholic-Jewish relations, Bl. John Paul II alluded to Rom. 11:17-24 in response to anti-Semitism and the Shoah. Christians who perpetuated or acquiesced to the Shoah, or even make “casual” anti-Semitic remarks, foremost reject that Christians are “grafted” onto the living tree of Israel. This grafting is central to salvation history “in one God” […] “the creator of history and the fate of every person” (in un unico Dio […] maestro della storia e del destino degli uomini). The Tree of salvation grows from this tree. Perhaps all Christians at some time struggle with our relationship with Israel. My love of the EF is tempered by a knowledge of its anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism. Justice requires the older liturgy to break bonds of hatred in order to worship our Lord justly and in truth.

    Chris McDonnell: Maybe in the coming months, our people will be heard by the bishops and revision of the texts will be considered. It would seem that the positive option would be for individuals and groups to write to their bishop, asking for appreciation and understanding of our difficulties.

    While I agree that a more collegial participation in any revision is necessary, I wonder if blanket rejections of the new translation will stifle the achievements of the new translation. While the collect translations are often at variance with fundamental English syntax, the “new” Roman Canon is quite an improvement. The 1998 proposed translation is not a lump-sum panacea. I would hope that certain aspects of the new translation are included in the revision, or at least as options alongside 1973/1998 translations. Perhaps “progressive” Catholics have the most greviances against the new translation. Traditional voices must also be heard in any revision.

    1. Jordan,

      Not everyone agrees that the ‘new’ Roman Canon is “quite an improvement”. The religious who sits next to me in chior had an altogether different vew of what has been done to it.

      As for the screwy syntax, I find myself getting lost or laughing at what I’m hearing. Tuning out follows quickly thereafter. After this choir year ends, maybe I won’t be there so often at all.

      1. An interesting consequence of the new translation adhering so closely to the Latin is that we some interesting features emerge in the Roman Canon. We see its rhetoric, which many find beautiful, but we also we that the Latin itself has its weaknesses, the result of many redactions and edits over the centuries. One thing I have wonder about in relation to the Roman Canon is how authentically Roman (in terms of Latin usage) are the embellishments in the Canon. I seem to recall that Latin was know for in compact usage and efficiency. In general terms it was Eastern usage which employed a more florid style, something that was picked up by Gallican usage. My lack of knowledge of ancient Roman/Latin poetry and rhetoric makes wonder.

      2. Jeff,
        I’m not qualified to comment on how truly Roman the Canon’s Latin is, but I do share your curiosity on the point. On the other hand, perhaps it doesn’t matter all that much. The more florid [and I agree that it seems to be of more Eastern origin] style is what is there now. I’m not at all convinced it’s good Latin, but more on point, I am quite certain that this style does not come across as good English.

      3. Latin is a highly ‘synthetic’ language, as opposed to English which is more ‘analytical’. In other words, Latin relies on word endings and not word order to convey ideas, unlike English is largely the opposite. Because word order isn’t as important in Latin, the Roman Canon contains the ability to create a certain textual rhythm through rhetorical devices. This is done through the placement and repetition of words. Cicero, for example, uses rhetorical devices similar to those found in the Canon.

        As Jeff notes, centuries of editorial changes has jumbled up the Canon a bit. This adds even more translation difficulty. Also, the translation team for the new Canon translation got “hooked” on the repetition trope and tried to apply that to English. In some places in the new translation, ideological decisions created rather strange mistranslations of the Latin. I still don’t understand the editorial decision for the very first sentence of the Roman Canon. It’s just not grammatically accurate or harmonious. Your guess is better than mine.

        We’re “getting there’ with the eucharistic prayer translations, but Round One hasn’t really hit the mark, I must agree.

  7. For me the nastiness of the arguments in reply to this blog are far more upsetting than the changes in the liturgy which I deeply dislike. If we can’t show mutual respect for each others’ opinions in all this we are doing nothing to either serve God or help the situation.

    1. Agreed! Some nitpicking occurs; honestly, at times this makes me not want to post a comment. Stick to the topic and be respectful of each other. 🙂

  8. I too find it disappointing that yet again there is such an unpleasant edge to the early comments in response to my posting. Please let us argue the case with respect and due charity, without the caustic comment that has no place in our discussion of Eucharistic Prayer

    1. Very well put and I regret my haste about my own participation in those early comments. I am very sorry.

      The post is a reminder of the need to pause. Like Donna’s experience, at both the parish where I work and the one where I worship, things have not gone so badly. People are not leaving. Some are happy, some are unhappy and I am not sure that the majority give it nearly as much thought as most of us do.

      1. Like Donna’s experience, at both the parish where I work and the one where I worship, things have not gone so badly. People are not leaving. Some are happy, some are unhappy and I am not sure that the majority give it nearly as much thought as most of us do.

        I previously said that this change would probably follow the 80/20 rule. With 20% being the group that are either happy or unhappy, and the other 80% being of the “whatever” category. They don’t care one way or the other. They neither like the change nor dislike it.

  9. The internet is notorious for eliciting ire and vile statements that would never occur in everyday speech or even in a letter. A statement that would be modified by tone of voice or facial expression in real life can come across as much harsher than intended. All need to be careful not to take offense, as well as to apologize when offense is given.

    One reason for strong statements on blogs such as this is that they provide the only platform for expressing an opinion on how the Church operates. We are governed by a small, self-selected group of men. The problem isn’t just in the Vatican; it goes down to every single parish ruled with an iron hand, oft times by a priest on a five or seven year term. Having glimpsed what can take place on a parish level, I find that I have lost the automatic respect for priests and bishops that I once had. I do respect many of those that I personally know, but I have seen even some of them make the mistake of imposing change unilaterally. I’ve seen too many Catholics try to work within the system only to be ignored. Too many of them have just walked away. They haven’t lost their faith, but they find that they can no longer pray where they have no respect for those presiding.

    Several people expressed the idea that the words we use at Mass aren’t that important, and/or that most people just don’t care. If either statement is true, then we are indeed using the wrong words.

  10. “Or we can take a third option, that of expectation and hope”

    For 55 years I’ve been a hopeful Catholic. It’s a lot like being a Chicago Cubs fan. Starting out with hope, being disappointed in the end.

    I can no longer fully enter into the Eucharistic Prayer. I am too distracted by the language, by the emptiness I feel. I don’t feel hopeful in the assembly anymore.

    “However we must be realistic. This is where we are, the new translation is in use; now how do we manage?”

    Maybe we don’t.

    1. That is an excellent reflection. I too have felt the prayers – especially the Eucharistic Prayers, leaving me empty, feeling hollow.

      1. I’d think it unlikely that the Eucharistic prayers should create a “feeling” in you to begin with. That’s not really their purpose. So to expect them to do so is to set yourself up for disappointment.

      2. You are missing an important point here, Samuel. The Eucharistic Prayers have a certain poetic quality to them. Poetry works by appealing to the intellect, the emotions and the ear. It is legitimate to expect that they would have some effect at all three levels.

      3. That poetry “works” by eliciting emotion is a Romantic idea that may or may not be correct for poetry generally and even if it is correct for poetry generally, may or may not be relevant for these prayers, which are not poetry, but which merely “have a certain poetic quality.”

        How “poetry works” is only distantly related to how the Eucharistic prayers work. Therefore, to expect them to create a feeling in the hearer is only a remote possibility and one should therefore not be disapointed if it doesn’t happen. Even to expect liturgy generally, to create a particular emotion in the participants is not a correct general expectation as the spiritual teachers of the church instruct us.

      4. That poetry works by appealing to the emotions and to the intellect is as old as poetry is. That’s the difference between poetry and mathematics. (And even some forms of mathematics have an emotional appeal.)

        The poetic nature of the Eucharistic Prayers is no exception.

        The Eucharistic Prayers are human constructions, devised by human beings for human beings’ edification and for God’s glory. Liturgy here below changes those who participate in it. God already knows the whole schema.

      5. That poetry works by appealing to the emotions and to the intellect is as old as poetry is.

        Really? I’d say that philosophizing about poetry is probably not as old as poetry itself. But just because an opinion is old doesn’t prove that it’s correct. Certainly there have been many periods, where the common view was not that poetry worked primarily on the emotions. (It wouldn’t seem to be the present view for instance, nor the view of the neo-classical period that preceded the romantic.)

        That’s the difference between poetry and mathematics.

        There are many differences between poetry and mathematics. As you point out, both of them actually can effect the emotions, so that they have an effect on the emotions can’t be the difference between them. Whether they are intended to have an effect on the emotions might be, but I don’t see why someone couldn’t intend to the affect the emotions with mathematics (though this might not be the best way to achieve the goal.)

        The poetic nature of the Eucharistic Prayers is no exception.

        It’s not at all clear to me that the

        The Eucharistic Prayers are human constructions, devised by human beings for human beings’ edification and for God’s glory. Liturgy here below changes those who participate in it. God already knows the whole schema.

        It can change people without it being emotional changed. Change doesn’t neccesarily leave one feeling changed. The prayers are human constructions, but the method of change (the sacrament of the Eucharist) is not human, but divine and the method of change is not human, but divine. Human-caused change is incidental to the expected and central divine-caused change.

      6. By way of response to your recent postings, Samuel, your method of running with a particular line of thought has serious limitations.

        In the first place, it was you who raised the objection to the legitimacy of responding emotionally to poetry by saying that it was merely a phenomenon of the Romantic period. Subsequently you declared that the age of a particular practice was irrelevant.

        What you describe as “philosophizing about poetry,” more commonly and correctly termed “literary criticism” is as old as poetry itself. It is at least as old as the sources used by Quintilian.

        It’s dualistic nonsense to claim that the “method of change is not human but divine,” and to speak of “human caused” and “divine caused” change.

        Grace builds on nature.

        You have some objection to liturgical prayer’s having a propensity to change the person praying, at the level of emotion. You have managed to explain quite what that is. And you haven’t managed to convince me why that ought to be the case.

  11. I think any assessment of how the new translation is being received will best occur now that the Christmas season is over. I think folks tend to go to the advent liturgies to prepare themselves for Christmas and then once the season is over will make a decision regarding continued attendance at liturgy with the new translation. My bet is that there will be a drop in attendance in the next few weeks with maybe a small uptick once again during the Lenten season. My guess also is that as more and more dickensonian, long, convoluted and “prissy” (to quote Graham from South Africa) prayers are added folks who are on the borderline with this will decide to leave.

      1. “find nothing to stay for?”

        How about the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Himself?

    1. Well, Reyanna, MY guess is that we’ll be seeing some folks returningb to the church. And I think my guess is as good as yours!

      1. Oh so true!! On the First Sunday of Advent, the people were just flocking to church. Remember that scene in Sister Act when the people on the street heard the choir sing the upbeat arrangement of Hail Holy Queen? It was practically the same! They heard “And with your spirit” and “Thrones and Dominions”, “for many”, “roof” and they said “Thank God! That childish, simpleton sacramentary has been discarded! Now Mass is better!”

        But really, considering the amount of time and effort that went into educating the people – I have seriously not heard any positive affirmation – only negative. Not one person in passing has said “Gee, I really like this new text.” Sure, it’s only been a few weeks, but still.

  12. I think we are in a difficult place, but I don’t see that active, direct resistance to the new translation will have any impact, anywhere – for now.

    What can those of us do who find the new translation detestable, both in process and in product?

    On a blog like this, we can point out the places where it is inaccurate or heretical. I think there is little value in addressing its stylistic problems, primarily because what sounds stilted and clumsy to one seems to sound majestic and sacral to another. But even Fr Z, generally an admirer of the new translation, has been open about its formal errors.

    We can speak when asked. I have resolved, in the parish, neither to volunteer views on the new translation or to ask others what they think. But if asked, I speak frankly and say that the 1973 was superior.

    Where we are involved in liturgy planning, we can encourage preparation, especially for important times such as Christmas and Holy Week. That way, there is less likelihood of people stumbling and getting lost in the midst of long paragraphs.

    Similarly, we can encourage avoidance of parts of the new translation that are particularly awful. I believe and regret that one negative consequence of the new translation is that priests will steer away from the Roman Canon, Eucharistic Prayer I, which was especially badly butchered.

    All these things can be said productively and calmly. And when the time comes for a review of the new translation, as it surely will, I have faith that our voices will be heard.

  13. “find nothing to stay for?”
    How about the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Himself?

    This brings us right back around to the question of liturgy. When the words of the Mass seem to contradict the meaning of the Eucharist, some people may find themselves unprepared to receive.

  14. I, for one, identify with what is said in the article.

    My wife and I are deeply disturbed by the new translation. While the process by which it has been introduced was uncharitable at best, the worst of it is the translation itself.

    Phrases like “Be pleased to look upon these offerings
    with a serene and kindly countenance,
    and to accept them,…” appear to come close to denying or ignoring the infinite, gratuitous love of God.

    Overall our experience of the new translation is that it is distracting and “feels” alien. I’d like to wake up tomorrow and discover this has been nothing by a bad dream. I really want to go to Mass and experience the encounter with the Divine that is now missing; lost in an abundance of superfluous and at times obsequious words and phrases. It’s as if the people in Rome who imposed this on us failed to understand Jesus’ instruction:

    “And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him”.

    Yes, I understand that Jesus was speaking to his disciples about private prayer at the time but, given the last phrase, the instruction appears general.

    As for writing to our Bishop. We’ve done it before. There’s never so much as an acknowledgment that he received the letter much less an actual response.

    The attitude among those in our community who have a reaction to the new translation similar to ours is roughly “we’re stuck with it, I don’t like it either”.
    The whole situation leaves us feeling a bit powerless to get back to, at least, something like meaningful participation in the liturgy. At least, in seeing that others have similar problems with the current situation, there is some cause for hope.

  15. Siobhan Maguire

    Fr. Allan J. McDonald :

    Obviously Vatican II’s reforms were top down mandated and at the time well received, although the laity were quite use to top down decisions and didn’t expect a say in things. The more liberal allowance of the EF was a bottom-up phenomenon, most parishes were required to poll parishioners to see if a stable group actually desired it (I did at least) and then those who wanted it got it. But the permission was top down–I couldn’t begin celebrating this form of the Mass without papal approval.

    It’s a little simplistic to say that the liturgical reforms of Vatican II were top-down. There must be, what, a 100 years of writings at the grass-roots level leading to the Council? At the very least, liturgical scholarship from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s contributed to the CSL.

    The provisional English translation of the late 60s (which was, as I understand it, simply turning to the “other page” of the Latin-English missal) is a result of the pastoral efforts of liturgical scholars in the 1930s to help those in the pews follow the Latin and thus participate more fully in the Mass.

    There’s nothing top down there.
    Only comments with a full name will be approved.

    1. I think most who use the word top-down mean the hierarchy assisted by academic theologians, not the laity in the parish demanding this or that change. Certainly the Liturgical movement that led to SC was assisted by this process of theology which at that time was basically a clerical endeavor, not laity animated. I stand by my assertion that this was top down, it was not sought by the laity and only a few laity had access to the theological writings of theologians.

  16. Masses for the Dead, For the Funeral, “B” Outside Easter Time, Collect: “O God, who are mercy for sinners, and the happiness of your Saints, give, we pray, to your servant N., for whom today we perform the fraternal offices of burial, a share with your chosen ones in the blessedness you give, so that on the day of resurrection, freed from the bonds of mortality, he (she) may come before your face. Through our Lord…

    If, “…for whom today we perform the fraternal offices of burial…” is not the result of idolalatrous worship of Latin vocabulary, I don’t know what is.

  17. John Drake :

    No, Sean, it is a reality that many folks actually LIKE the new words! I know you can’t grasp that fact, but quite a good many, do indeed LIKE the new, corrected translation!

    Please cite your sources. Where have polls been taken on a wide scale basis to ask people whether they like the new translation or not?

    My statement was not to say that it’s impossible that many people like the new translation. But merely, that the lack of people stating that they dislike the new translation does not automatically imply that they like it. Rather, they simply feel that they have no choice and it’s not worth fighting over.

  18. “find nothing to stay for?”

    How about the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Himself?

    That’s just it. For many, the new translation, and the way it was imposed, has destroyed the presence of the Lord at the mass.

  19. Sean Whelan :

    But really, considering the amount of time and effort that went into educating the people – I have seriously not heard any positive affirmation – only negative. Not one person in passing has said “Gee, I really like this new text.” Sure, it’s only been a few weeks, but still.

    Sean W.,

    interestingly, I’ve seen little official opinions on whether people like or dislike the new missal, because most parishes or dioceses aren’t performing official polls on the topic. The place where I’ve seen the most opinions of like or dislike are on this blogsite. The majority of Catholics with whom I’ve spoken on a casual basis have told me that they neither like it nor dislike it. It’s simply a change, neither better nor worse. A few have said, if we didn’t like it, what could we do?

    My fear will be if the church hierarchy starts to take the presumption that if people do not express dislike for any changes that they make, that it automatically means they like it.

    1. No, it just means they don’t have to worry about. The only thing that might count is strong, sustained dislike that is communicated in ways that can be heard properly (agitprop would not be an example of this). Frankly, I don’t see evidence of that yet in any substantial way in real parish life (blogs don’t count).

      Btw, we have to be careful here: at some point down the road, there’s likely to be a progressive impulse to change the translation again. Whatever standards are being devised right now to evaluate the “reception” of the newest changes would need to be applied with an equal hand in the future. The standards have to cut both ways in order to be credible…. This is, classically, where people tend to get in there own way (by failing to adopt standards that can cut both ways, thus reducing their credibility).

    1. Joe, I’m going to have to keep calling you out on this: it was one bishop, Colin Campbell, who has spent the last year making a big noise about how much he hates the new translation and asked for feedback.

      From the entire diocese of Dunedin he got circa 180 responses of which, as you say, the great majority were hostile.

      Funnily enough, pollsters have noticed that if you ask a question from a transparently partisan position you tend to only elicit answers from people that agree with you. Also, if you ask for people to contact you to express an opinion, you only get answer from people with an axe to grind.

      The better way to look at +Campbell’s “results” would be to say that he’s only found c.150 people that agree with him that the new translation is bad out of his entire diocese.

      1. No, I read that in ANOTHER poll carried out by several NZ bishops the disapproval rate was 70%.

  20. The discussion is about sincerely-held views on language

    It’s not just about the words, it’s also about the wat the words wee chosen – the usurpation of the rights of the bishops and the following, well, lying, about how the translation came to be achieved.

    I don’t know about Merton and the others mentionsed, but John Courtney Murray did not ever really back down or shut up or go along to get along – he kept at what he believed in until a changing of popes gave him an opportunity to finally be heard on the subject of religious liberty.

    I think Janet’s reference to the holocaust wasn’t meant to be disrespectful and to go on about how she made her point, instead of discussing the point she was making, is distraction. Her point is really important to me. I don’t understand how people can fret over the details of every last word translated and be completely unconcerned with the bigger picture …. our church seems to be run by bullies and liars, if this recent missal translation process is any example. Ignoring this and hoping that one’s personal eucharistic experience at church is all that’s important just seems wrong to me.

  21. Henry Edwards :

    “It was the regular use of those words for so long (for many of us our entire lives) which acted as the rock that we could always rely on to always be there. To us, Mass was the liturgy that used those words. Changing the words of the mass meant that it was no longer “mass” to us, but rather some other liturgy that was now being called mass. “
    Thank you for this, Sean. In four decades of discussion, I have never seen or heard a more precise and evocative description of how people of my generation felt when the Mass of centuries of our forefathers was changed abruptly, not only in its language but in its ritual more powerful than language. Though I’d estimate the current change of language to be somewhere between 1% and 5% of that we endured then, though most of those I knew personally remained faithful to the Church.

    I’m glad to see I caught your attention, Henry. For a second, I thought that you were subtly implying that that since you had to suffer through your mass being stolen from you in the 1960s and 70s, that there’s no reason that the same thing shouldn’t happen again to a different group of people, most of whom weren’t even born yet when Vatican II’s reforms were implemented.

    But, you would never mean that. You’d obviously not want others to undergo the suffering that you encountered, right?

  22. Gerard Flynn’s comment on the value of poetic language is important. The language we use in prayer is not for the benefit of the good Lord but to assist us in our expression of faith. That is why it matters.

    1. The language we use in prayer is not for the benefit of the good Lord but to assist us in our expression of faith. That is why it matters.

      But that has nothing to do with a) whether it’s poetry or b) whether the language should always produce a notable effect on the emotions.

      To say that you have not been emotionally affected by the langauge doesn’t prove that it’s bad (or even that it’s bad/not poetry.)

      1. Samuel, your recent contributions illustrate the limitations of pursuing an exclusively intellectual level of interpretation. Without wishing to do you a disservice, your tendency to take a line of thought and to run with it is effectively leading you up a series of cul-de-sacs.

        In the first place, whether the language of prayer is a form of poetry or not is of only secondary importance. The issue being discussed in this part of the thread is whether prayer may be expected to bring about a change at the level of emotions on the part of the one praying. (“Always” and “notable” are two new elements which you have just brought into the discussion, which were not there initially.) My contention is that it is as legitimate to respond emotionally to the Eucharistic Prayers as it is to respond intellectually to them.

        No one is claiming that if someone is not “emotionally affected” by a prayer that the prayer is bad (or that it is not poetry.) It is patently a false claim. But the alternative which you are proposing, that prayer is not designed to affect the one praying at the level of emotion is equally false.

        What is your objection to the propensity of public prayer to affect the person praying at the level of emotion?

  23. I just meditated on the Nicene Creed in Latin and the effect produced by this “dry” text was to increase my sense of the vision of faith — an effect both intellectual and emotional. Liturgical texts when they are good have the same effect.

  24. Joe O’Leary :

    No, I read that in ANOTHER poll carried out by several NZ bishops the disapproval rate was 70%.

    Without wishing to be rude, Joe, you’re not filling me with a great deal of confidence in your reporting of this. Are you able to point to a source, if only to set my mind at rest?

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