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 Teˇfilo
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.
Those are both good hymnals and I think ordering a couple could only be a good thing. But there are going to be changes in the near future, mostly because of the new translation that will come out at some point (it keeps getting delayed), and this may affect what will be in all of the hymnals. Also, I have heard that even the loosey goosey publishers have suddenly begun looking for chant arrangements, traditional hymns, etc. The worm is turning.
Right now, my sister is at a workshop on Gregorian chant - and it was oversubscribed only a couple of weeks after it was announced. They have a waiting list for future conferences, and my sister told me that probably at least a third of the attendees are under 30.
Give your parish people some input but be prepared for (positive!) changes in the near future. And of course, after the motu propio, who knows what the future may hold?
It finally dawned on me that what happened after Vatican II was one of those periodic revolts among the lower clergy that cause great disruption. That is how the Reformation began, that’s how the Enlightenment began. Although some of the laity, mostly upper crust, and some of the hierarchy were involved, their reforms went ahead with very little respect for the opinions of those who they called “the people of God.”
The congregation uses The Liturgical Press's missalette "Celebrating the Eucharist".
This is nowhere near as bad as OCP -- it's a fairly orthodox publication and the hymn selection always includes good old traditional standards ("O Sacrament Most Holy") as well as a number of German and English Protestant traditional hymns (mostly Lutheran and Anglican). It does have some of the awful Haugen/Haas/St. Looey Jebbie stuff in it, but that's just a sop to the folks who like it. Our choirmaster throws in one of the hymns periodically to placate the fans in the congregation . . . which means we never have to do any trashy anthems. Fair tradeoff.
The Liturgical Press is also putting out the St. John's Bible, the first handwritten Bible in centuries. The art is splendid -- it is very modern, but well drawn, with good use of color and design.
One of my favorites. It looks to me like a homage to Rembrandt's Adoration of the Shepherds.
That's a good point. A fish rots from the head, however, so there was obviously corruption at the top. But I think it would never have gone so far if it had not been promoted by lower level clergy. Some of them were the young products of corrupted seminaries; others were middle aged but had obviously gotten by in the world simply by disguising their opinions. I used to hear men like that preaching: you knew they believed not a word of their religion, but it was their job and they knew exactly how much they could get away with.
When the Church tried to stamp out modernism (which culminated in the evil aspects of Vatican II), it obviously didn't go about it the right way. Making these people take an oath didn't matter, because they didn't believe in oaths anyway. If you don't believe in God in the first place, what leverage does the Church have over you? It's hard to say why they wanted to go into the clergy. An easy living, perhaps; or possibly they started as believers and got corrupted. Or possibly it was the Devil, "who like a roaring lion, goes about seeking whom he may devour..."
The archdiocese here featured a Latin Mass last Friday as part of a Two Hearts society devotional evening. The priest (from the local FSSP Indult parish) brought his deacons, six altar boys, smells, bells, and his entire Schola Cantorum plus 3 ringer sopranos. The Schola did Schubert's "Mass in G" in its entirety during the Mass. It took 1 1/2 hours . . . but it was worth it. They had a Eucharistic Benediction, Procession, and Adoration afterwards until midnight, with 8 priests hearing Confessions throughout. (My daughter took the opportunity to get in the slowest line, she said the priest was a Jamaican and 'very sweet'.)
I still kid Monsignor about our being Refugees from the Wrath to Come . . . .
I’ve been thinking lately that if everything is supposed to be so dag-blamed contemporary, then it’s time to get away from what was contemporary 40-50 years ago when all these hippie-dippie liberals were just starting their missions to wreck society and move to what’s contemporary NOW. In other words, whether we go traditional or not their day is OVER. It’s history, as they’re so fond of saying about Latin.
I hate to say this but he doesn’t look too different from some of the worse RCIA speakers I had to endure less than two years ago.
I’m sure this isn’t helpful but my Anglican Use parish uses the 1940 episcopal hymnal. It has everything you need to for a good Catholic service. Course when I was a kid in the episcopal church in the sixties we didn’t do a lot of the chant settings, the kyries, the glorias, etc., and they abandoned it in 1982. But what’s there is excellent stuff.
My real answer I suppose would be to get some good hymnals and a lot of paper for the copier and put them in the service bulletins.
Good list. I would add that many priessts were gullible and/or naive, in part because they were products of a narrow seminary education which taught them the bad things about other points of views but not the good things than be so seductive. Take psychology,for instance. It pretends to be science when it is is only quasi-science. One cannot dismiss it ought of hand, One must deal with its truths, the half-truths as well as the falsehoods. Then there was the cult of Teilhard, whom Maritain despised but about whom even the Holy Father has some good things to say because the Jebbie had some good things to offer. The worst offenders, I think, are always the idealists because
so many are going to be disillusioned, but not before they mess things up for the people they influence.
Jamaicans are very sweet. When I did the Camino and went to Confession before the Pilgrim’s Mass in the Cathedral, which is of course a prerequisite for the indulgence, we had to go up to an area they had set aside near the altar, where they had priests who theoretically spoke the major languages of the pilgrims (French, German, etc.).
I went to the one who was theoretically English speaking. He was an older gentleman who had not an idea what I was saying, but that was okay, since I’d been on the Camino for almost two months and had done nothing other than get annoyed with bicyclists from time to time. But he was very sweet, and I still remember kneeling there in front of the altar at the Cathedral of Santiago.
That is a truly excellent point. There were some who, as you say, were well meaning but they simply didn't know how to defend their point of view. They had had such a cautious, timid education that when push came to shove, even though they were fundamentally orthodox, they had no idea how to express it, defend it, or even what it really meant. And half-truths are almost more convincing than real truths, because they can be combined so easily with other convenient half-truths...
“Theoretically English speaking” is good. I drew our visiting Thai priest for my First Confession . . . I think HE understood what I was saying, but on the other hand I was not always sure what HE was saying . . . he gave me a hefty penance though so he understood at least PART of it . . . . or at least that it was 42 years’ worth . . . < g >
I think it’s for the same reason that so many fabian communists went into academia. Once their ill-begotten plot to overthrow society overtly failed they began to infiltrate and undermine. The Church was one of the biggest bulwarks against them, so it was one of their favorite targets. Thank God the Church is the anvil on which heresies are blunted.
It also explains why so many of them went in willing to take the vow of chastity. They never had any intention of keeping it.
Been there. Done that. :-)