The missal translation begins… my thoughts

Posted: November 27, 2011 in World Events, Young Adults, Youth
Tags: , , ,

Father Matt Buening looked out on his congregation Nov. 27 as he was concluding Mass at St. Paul’s in Ellicott City and offered something he has done throughout his young priesthood.
“The Lord be with you,” he said.
What came next probably happened all across the country this weekend.
One half responded “And also with you,” while the other said, “And with your spirit.”
Father Buening smiled and offered, “Pretty good.”
It wasn’t the first time the congregation relied on what it had done for decades. Earlier in the Mass, Father Buening offered “The Lord be with you.”
The congregation responded with “And also with you.”
Father Buening looked at them and said, “One more time.”
The parish giggled a bit and said, “And also with your spirit.”
Father Buening again asked, “One more time.”
Finally, they said, “And with your spirit.”
English-speaking parishes all across the country started the new translation (third edition) of the Roman Missal this weekend during Masses. And there were “a few slip-ups” at some parishes as one Catholic Review tweet put it.
People in the Archdiocese of Baltimore who knew all of the previous responses and the Mass spent the weekend looking at pamphlet guides. The Masses lacked the sure-footedness of previous ones, as people read, rather than recited, much of their responses.
More than anything, the biggest changes happened for the priests, who prepared for the consecration in a whole new, and almost unrecognizable, way.
I think one of my biggest adjustments to the new translation will be the wordiness of it all. That’s saying something considering I’m a writer. Journalists are often told to “dumb it down” for their audience so the reader will understand the story better. The Catholic English Mass is going in the opposite direction, using wordy prose that is more faithful to the original Latin text that guided the Catholic Church for much of its 2000 years.
As a retired altar boy, I spent a lot of time looking down, rather than up, this weekend. I no longer know the Mass like the back of my hand.
I knew what I said before, I meant it and it was true.
It’s not my job to judge the decisions of Catholic leaders who know more theologically than I do. Their goal is to make the worship experience deeper and fuller. For me, there wasn’t anything deeper and fuller than the Mass as I knew it.
It might not have been close enough to the Latin for some, but, for me, Mass wasn’t about chasing a language. It was about celebrating Christ’s sacrifice and his real presence in the Eucharist. It might not have been perfect for some, but it was perfect for me and I suspect for a lot of people.
To be honest, I do worry about the large number of ex-Catholics who might entertain returning to the Holy Church one day. Fall-away Catholics make up one of the most significant portions of faiths in the country. If they return, will they recognize the Mass and will it bring them the comfort they’re seeking?
The page in the Missal has been turned. It’s my job as a Catholic newspaper reporter to turn with it. I can’t educate people in the paper if I don’t go deeper in my own Catholicism and explore what’s being said at Mass all over again. The reality is, this is going to be the Mass of my children. They won’t know anything different until it’s possibly changed down the road… and then they’ll be the ones talking about how they feel like a stranger in a familiar pew.
One of the unfortunate side effects of this change has been the online battle between those who dispute the change and those who embrace it. I’ve seen some resort to calling those faithful to the former translation “protestants.” A love of the Mass is a love of the Mass. It’s not protestant to think the Mass, as it was, was beautiful and true. A person has the right to miss that translation as much as some miss the Latin Mass proper.
We all have the same goal in the Catholic faith. As English-speakers, we’re just saying it differently now and that’s no small thing.

  1. It was perfect for me too, just the way it was. (sigh)

  2. Timothy says:

    I think the beauty of the Mass is that all over the world we’re praying the same thing in our different languages as we re-present the Sacrifice. The old English translation wasn’t a translation as much as a transliteration. As Americans, we are often content to have things “dumbed down” for us. I find it insulting to our collective intelligence to think we “won’t get it” if we say “and with your spirit” instead of “and also with you.” We use different modes of speech in different settings all the time. If a college professor started class with “‘sup, y’all ready to learn some dope stuff today?” Students would (should) question his credibility. If I started a casual conversation with “you’re looking exquisite this fine day!” My friend would freak out. The Mass is our encounter with God in the form of the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrifice of Calvary re-presented in an unbloody manner. Doesn’t it deserve language that doesn’t sound the same as a sporting event?!

    • Matt Palmer says:

      Timothy, thanks for the response. Please don’t take this personal, but I bristle when people in favorite of the new translation equate the Mass as it was with a bunch of slackers sitting around in their shorts and hats backwards saying “Sup ya’ll.”
      When people responded “And also with you,” they didn’t just mean it as a high-five to the priest.
      I think there’s a point where people who favor the new translation can speak about its virtues without diminishing the previous to the point of exaggeration.
      One of the interesting things to observe out of this has been the online conversation. Some people sound as if they resented the Mass experience they were getting under the old translation. Is this the case?

      • Timothy says:

        I agree that the old transliteration wasn’t just a bunch of slackers. I think they did a great job wording things in a way that made sense to every day English speakers. I am only 30 and a convert from Evangelical Protestantism, so the previous translation was the only one I knew. As such, I never resented the experience- I treasured it because it was so much more spiritually and Biblically deep than anything I had growing up. I think maybe that experience plays into loving this new translation even more than the old. The fact that I never had the Tridentine Rite experience or even the Novus Ordo in Latin meant that my starting point was the previous translation, but I loved the liturgy because it was ordered toward what was always missing in my youth- the Real Presence.

        I think the real point of contention people have is that it’s “different” and “new.” As a former “outsider,” I studied a lot of things about the Catholic Church before joining. One of the most fascinating aspects to me was a 2,000 year old system that had evolved in some aspects yet remained faithful to the worship of the early Church. The liturgy hasn’t really changed much (even the Novus Ordo has more Biblical roots than some of the postures of the Tridentine). As humans, we’re resistant to change, self included, but sometimes change is for the better. Perhaps it’s distinctly American to think “no one asked my opinion” in regards to these changes. We should look at these changes as a way of deepening the Catholic aspect of our faith- the universality of our prayer and liturgy! Now, we truly are saying verbatim what our brothers and sisters in France, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, and Vietnam have been saying since the 1970’s. I think that’s the bigger picture in all these changes.

      • Matt Palmer says:

        You might like this blog I just posted of an interview I did with a pastor here in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

        I’m glad you’ve come to the faith, Timothy. You have a great outlook on these changes.


  3. David JJ Facciolo says:

    I accept the changes in a spirit of obedience. Most of the language is similar to the first vernacular translations in the mid 60’s but there are some difficult changes-even to those of us who are familiar with both both Latin and English languages-let alone to congregants. Some of the word choices have obscured the meaning in modern English so as to adapt to the old Latin. The word “oblation” in the consecration has virtually no meaning in the modern English language and it comes from reference to pagan worship-not Hebrew or early Christian worship. The reference to the “chalice” in the consecration was ridiculous- Jesus at the Passover used a “cup” – probably earthen. Again a pagan word and one associated with royalty was used. Lastly “consubstantiation” in the new version of the creed- OK this is absolutely theologically correct-perhaps it is the most signficant change of all – but it is not an easily intelligible word in modern English – “one in being with the father” was more poetic and closer in nuance to the original Latin meaning in the early texts. I give the bishops credit for trying to make the ritual more sacred but until we get used to it,it has made it less accessible even for the discerning heart. That said –these changes are small ones to bear for participation in a communion that is 2000 years old and the Mass ritual has had more than 2500 changes since the founding of the Church, so I am hopeful that in six months maybe I will feel that my first impression was more the result of living my life with the older Vatican II version, rather than resenting the more intellectual adaptation the new Mass offers.

  4. […] When I tackled the ramifications of the new Roman Missal translation, I pondered what it would mean … Of course, there has been a split amongst Catholics who do attend church about the translations, which were implemented last week after months of preparations. It took a gigantic amount of effort and the kinks are still being worked out. If the people who have been hearing this for a while think it’s tough, just imagine those people who are returning will think. A co-worker of mine said they wouldn’t notice a difference because they’ve been away for so long. I beg to differ. People raised in the church don’t forget what it’s like. It’s embedded in your psyche. I don’t have anything to back this up, but I’d imagine many former Catholics who go to other church services notice what’s not like their Catholic Mass experience, no matter how many times they attend. So, when the Catholic Mass is different, what happens next? Let’s talk numbers — wait, wait, don’t click away yet, this will get interesting. America ranks in the top five countries in terms of number of Catholics. One in three Americans were raised Catholic. According to the Pew Research Center, about one-third of people raised in the Catholic Church are no longer part of the faith. When people say Hispanics are the future of the Catholic Church in America, they’re not kidding. Forty-six percent of foreign-born Americans are Catholics. According to a 2008 Pew study, “Latinos, who already account for roughly one-in-three adult Catholics overall, may account for an even larger share of U.S. Catholics in the future. For while Latinos represent roughly one-in-eight U.S. Catholics age 70 and older (12%), they account for nearly half of all Catholics ages 18-29 (45%).” Spanish Masses in the U.S. were unaffected by the Roman Missal translation for English speakers. I’m not breaking new ground here, but the Catholic Church has a lot of work cut out for it in America. Think about it: The Catholic Church has to stop people from leaving the church, retain what it currently has amidst a big shift in Roman Missal translation, attempt to bring new people to the church while integrating vital Hispanics into parish life. It’ll be a challenge to integrate many Hispanics in English-speaking Masses implementing the new translation too. So, all of this brings me to #occupychurch. The hashtag is gaining steam on Twitter among youth ministers and ministry leaders. Of course, it’s a clever play on the Occupy Wall Street crowd, a would-be revolution, and its prevalence on social networks. Can an #occupychurch movement really start? How does a 2000-year-old institution with unchanging truths convince people its counter-cultural enough to create a faith revolution? As an observer and reporter, I’m watching this with interest to see if something tangible manifests itself without being ironic. How do you push past the hashtag and into the real world given all the challenges facing the American Catholic Church right now? Is it possible for American Catholics to #occupychurch once again? Share this:FacebookTwitterEmailDiggLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s