Skip to comments.Liturgists can also learn a thing or two from faithful Catholic lay people
Posted on 06/20/2007 9:52:27 PM PDT by Teófilo
Folks, as my better know colleague, Carl Olson of Ignatius' Press Insight Scoop reports, distinguished Catholic authors George Weigel and Amy Welborn have taken strong exception at remarks made by Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, chairman of the U.S. bishops Committee on the Liturgy in an article published in America magazine, titled How Accessible Are the New Mass Translations?
I wish to summarize the dispute as follows: Bishop Trautman believes that restoring majesty to the English translation of the Roman Missal should not be done at the expense of intelligibility for "John and Mary Catholic" in the pew. Weigel and Welborn, on the other hand, point out that "John and Mary Catholic" aren't "morons," that "John and Mary Catholic" are educated enough to understand these words.
The vernacular Mass in English hasn't been revised even once since its inception in the early 1970's. Other vernacular versions have seen various revisions and they've all have tended to restore an elevated, more majestic use of vernacular language in the Liturgy. The current English Mass lags behind all the others in this respect.
I grew up with the Spanish vernacular Mass. When I came to attend Mass exclusively in English, I began noticing the differences: et cum spiritu tuo, rendered in English as "and also with you" was kept at y con tu espíritu in Spanish. People understood that there's a deeper reality in each one of us where sanctifying grace dwells along with that Peace the Lord gives each of us. We are compound unities of soul and body. This is a truth we have forgotten and, what better time to do this than at Mass? The English translation made a spiritual greeting into a colloquial one where peace remains at a mere surface level.
Or, my other favorite objection: the Spanish translation of the Latin Mortem tua annuntiàmus, Dòmine, et tuam resurrectiònem confitèmur, donec vènias said after mysterium fidei ("let us proclaim the mystery of faith" said after Consecration) is closer in meaning to the Latin and more dynamic than the drab "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again," which is merely declarative, lacking the aesthetics necessary to convey the fact that we proclaim this mystery of faith because we we believe it. In Spanish, mysterium fidei becomes este es el sacramento de nuestra fe ("this is the sacrament of our faith) which is indicative: what has transpired in the consecration is pointed out as the sacrament of our faith. In English, it becomes an invitation to proclaim the mystery; in Spanish we are invited to contemplate the mystery, in English the statement is turned into an invitation to say "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again," effectively changing the focus from contemplation to a proclamation that is mistranslated to begin with.
I will be the first one to admit that I lack formal training in liturgics. But I do have formal theological studies and, praised be the Lord, I also can follow an argument. I also can compare and contrast and find myself at a loss to explain the divergence in meaning between the Spanish and the English translations of the Mass. I also can tell that with the drift in language and meaning in the English vernacular there has also been a drift in theological meaning and emphases from the original Latin.
I humbly suggest that it is high time to restore the connection between the Mass in the English vernacular and the Latin. I disagree with Bishop Trautman's main argument that elevating the vernacular language of the Mass will lead to a loss of meaning and therefore the new revision would not be "pastoral." Mass in the vernacular was never meant to be Mass in the vulgar tongue.
The nature and object of the Mass would seem to preclude the shallow, chatty, 1970's English that was forced into the Liturgy. I respectfully say that it is the job of liturgists, catechists, and pastors to form and educate the faithful regarding the need for majesty in liturgical language, the connection and continuity with the Latin original, and to help the faithful elucidate the meaning of difficult words and terms. In other words, the faithful need to rise to the liturgical action in the vernacular; the liturgical language should not be dumbed-down for the faithful by a faux appeal to pastoral necessity.
I agree with Olson, Weigel, and Welborn. Bishop Trautman appears to think that most of us are "liturgical morons," as Olson well puts it. Bishop Trautman urges us to "Speak up, speak up!" I accept his invitation and venture to say this: the Church is not led by "learned" societies of liturgical and biblical technocratsI don't want us to end like the Episcopal Church although, ironically, the English language of Anglican liturgies is superior to our own. Well, that's a subject for another post.
What I fear is that handing over the process to ivory-towered theologians and liturgists will result in a further decay in the quality of the language of the Mass in English and a continued semantic and theological drift from the original Latin. I think that when the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council stated that Texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify. Christian people, as far as possible, should be able to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively and as it befits a community, the Fathers didn't necessarily imply that liturgical and theological meanings were to be subordinated to easy understandings brought about by pedestrian word constructions whenever possible, for "pastoral reasons."
Clearly, ease of reading should serve original meaning and not the other way around. Those of us who seek a better, more majestic English vernacular Mass want to restore the primacy of meaning and of tradition over easy, happy-sappy, colloquial renderings of the Liturgy. So I want to speak up and add my voice, but to respectfully disagree with the good Bishop of Erie's liturgical agenda in form and in substance.
Check out Charlie, a Catholic Lay Evangelist - wait a few seconds while it loads up. He’s gonna preach:
I love this guy.
Question: Is the Spanish translation of Scripture used in the Mass as flat and unpoetical as the NAB. The best indictment of this translation is that no one uses it except in the Liturgy.
One of the bloggers had an interesting comment that John and Mary seem easily confused and yet they are expected to be able to "fully and actively" participate in the Mass. That seems somewhat schizophrenic.
Thank you. An excellent reference.
It’s more than just the translations used in the Mass. I’m still ticked off that the ‘opening hymn’ has become the ‘gathering song’. Guess that modern Joe and Mary Catholic are believed to be too stupid to know what a ‘hymn’ is. Then again, with what’s been foisted upon us in the last two decades, maybe it’s insulting to call those numbers ‘hymns’. End of rant!
I go to Mass in Spain and the Spanish version is much, much closer to the Latin. In fact, it is just a translation, not an ideologically motivated paraphrase, like the English version.
I’ve been to a few Spanish masses here, and they were definitely a lot more informal, but it was hard for me to determine whether that was because of the translation or because of the fact that the priest felt he had to do some free-form additions and personal touches. (I hope the latter ceases in any language!)
Ooops, “here,” meaning the US, where I live. One of the reasons that I have never been too sure what had to do with the Spanish translation and what was connected with the peculiarities of the priest is that there is a heavy charismatic influence in a lot of the Spanish language masses celebrated in the US.
The translation question is complicated not only by the fact that most of the translations are lousy, but by who owns the rights to them. The USCCB owns the rights to some of the English translations used, and some are owned by one of the “Catholic” presses. My sister, who is a musician, told me that new psalm settings that are being written actually use yet another text, created by that particular publisher, in order to avoid paying the royalties on other translations.
**Is the Spanish translation of Scripture used in the Mass as flat and unpoetical as the NAB. The best indictment of this translation is that no one uses it except in the Liturgy.**
However, the Spanish translation is much more accurate than the English translation, according to many priests.
The English is just catching up with it.
**I go to Mass in Spain and the Spanish version is much, much closer to the Latin. In fact, it is just a translation, not an ideologically motivated paraphrase, like the English version.**
BTTT! You are correct here!
We need to continue asking for a richer and more reverent hymnal for our churches. (Away with the OCP nonsense!)
For myself, I am researching this, since several parishioners are asking for a more reverent Mass with more silence in it.
Do you know who the sacred music experts on FR are? (So I can get recommendations from them!)
And being of that background I really don't mind it, nevertheless, in my time I served full-fledged Pontifical Mass in the Novus Ordo celebrated by a very strict bishop and let me tell ya', it never made me pine for the Tridentine Mass -- that I never came to know until my late 30's.
Sure, we Latinos can be a tad more exhuberant in our Liturgy but for some reason, the current Mass in English has invited excesses of a different kind.
Bishop Trautperson heads the Liturgy for the Bishops. He
appears to be much more moronic than those he thinks are too stupid to understand the basic english vocabulary.
A lot of the great hymns are in the OCP Music Issue we have in my parish. Adoro Te Devote has been in there for years.
But every week seems to be a heaping plateful Haugen, Haas and Schutte. It's torture.
Years ago, after Mass, I thanked the choir director for using Panis Angelicus. Haven't heard it since then, not at Mass anyway.
I just did a search and came up with two hymnals that look great AND liturgical!
St. Michael Hymnal
It seems that An American Mother’s parish uses Adoremus.
I think there are more than just a few fed up with the OCP stuff — so I am thinking about ordering perusals of these two for our priest and pastoral council. It will eventually get to the music director.
I think one of the reasons for the Latino-Charismatic connection is that during the early 70s (the foundation of many “Hispanic ministries” and parishes in the US), Charismatic Catholics were actually considerably more orthodox than many other Catholics. The Spanish language charismatic movement (which gave us such things as the song, De Colores) was part of this, and Hispanics were attracted to it because it was orthodox and most of them had come from countries that may have been a little dysfunctional politically, but were orthodox in religion. (This was before lefty politics had swept the Church in Latin America.)
The Spanish (in Spain) are very solemn and do not like informality in the mass. They are quite exuberant the rest of the time. When I went to a Papal audience in Rome, the Spaniards were literally jumping up and down, dancing sevillanas, and screaming, “Te amamos, Benedicto!” But now that the Spanish, particularly under the influence of the Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid, have started to return to formality and dignity in the mass, as well as to the traditional devotions that are the heart of Spain, church attendance has begun to climb.
Also, by the way, it was lay people who kept Spanish devotions alive during the worst period after Vatican II. I build belenes (Spanish Nativity scenes) and the belenista movement was purely lay people; the processions at Holy Week were also lay activities, organized by the Cofradías, and the clergy actually tried to stop them in the 1970s and 80s. But fortunately, the Spanish are so faithful they just kept on doing them anyway, and now all of a sudden, the clergy thinks it was their own idea all along...