Thursday, May 10, 2007

Should The Liturgy Be Dumber?

Rocco is reporting some renewed criticism of the upcoming English translation of the liturgy by Bishop Donald Trautman, chair of the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy. According to Trautman:
"What will the person in the pew hear and comprehend? Will the words “prefiguring sacrifices of the Fathers” and “born ineffably of the inviolate Virgin,” for example, resonate with John and Mary Catholic? Is this prayer intelligible, proclaimable, reflective of a vocabulary and linguistic style from the contemporary mainstream of U.S. Catholics?... In the new missal you will hear awkward phrases like “We pray you bid.” This is not American English. Ponder these concrete examples and judge for yourself."
First things first. The liturgy is supposed to glorify God and unite us with God. It should be soaring, majestic, transcendental, poetic. We are ill-served by the current, rather banal, translation, and I, for one, will welcome the new translation with open arms. Trautman, in his zeal to dumb down, does not give the congregation enough credit (nor do a good number of priests with their homilies, but that's another story.) But there's something else. This is the English language translation. There is no such thing as American English. There will be one translation for the entire English speaking world. Really, American exceptionalism knows no bounds...


paul zummo said...

Duuuh, what does consubstantial mean?

Seriously, this bit of snooty condescension is ill befitting a pastor whose flock tends to be highly educated.

Of course, the way around having to fret about these translations is just to have the bulk of the Mass done in Latin.

Just saying.

padre vic said...

Thank God for a higher level of education for most of our people. But even with that, most people in the pews have not furthered their religious education and stopped when they were 14 years old. It does create some difficulty in preaching to a very diverse congregation.
I also think there is a real sense of how English is spoken here and in other parts of the world, you only need to travel to other parts to make that realization.
When you meet the people from ICEL, it is as if they live in entirely different worlds than the rest of humanity. A number of them come from backgrounds that are more academic and etymological in nature rather than lived experience. I think their translations are difficult to speak and clumsy at times. It bothers me how this process is being held with quite a bit of secrecy, we could do this openly and yield better results.

I do not see this as American exceptionalism, as much as I see it as inculturation of the liturgy and liturgical texts, just as other countries do. The Liturgy should glorify God, and it should unite the people as the Body of Christ, irrespective of our differences, even out levels of education.