Friday, February 12, 2010

New Translations: It's Still English!

I'm beginning to wonder exactly what kind of a revolt the USCCB, individual bishops, pastors, liturgy directors and other lay leaders are anticipating when the new translations come out. I've heard talk of instructional CDs, diocesan programs and booklets and educational aids. Pastors and liturgy directors will be told to deploy them when the time comes, and one thing will be for sure: we'll be prepared.

Why are bishops and pastors so worried about the reactions of people in the pews? Are they afraid of a mass exodus like the one that happened in the 1960s? This is hardly the same thing. Or given our litigious culture of political correctness, self esteem, and so-called scandals, are they just afraid?

Do they really think they need to spend massive amounts of money on print materials, software, and training programs in order to get the people in the pews ready for the change? It won't be a new Mass, after all. It will be the same Mass and some of the English words will be changed.

Do they truly believe people are so clueless that they won't understand what is going on? Some may be surprised, it's true. But that's because they haven't been paying attention anyway. They go to Mass every Saturday at 5:00pm and then go home, and do the same thing week after week, year in, year out. Sure they may grumble a little — at first.

But many will be glad for the change. The new translations have more in common with the universal language of the Church, and bring us closer to our heritage. This idea, if any, should go over well in our multicultural society. One strong homily or two should do it.

Maybe I'm not like everyone else, but it is not news to me that the Church is hierarchical by design. Bishops and pastors are supposed to be shepherds. They are supposed to tell us what to do, whether we like it or not. And we are supposed to be sheep. We are supposed to follow directives. Give us the new translations. Bring them on. We'll go along with it.

Do shepherds on remote mountain tops give their flocks instructional booklets and audio tours on how to stay with the group? Are pastors really nothing more than tour guides — paid themselves to make sure their valuable customers wear the right shoes and bring sunscreen and wear hats, but don't give dollars to local beggars, don't drink the water and don't, heaven forbid, contract malaria?

These are just translations. The language is English. Why all the hype? Print the new translations in worship aids if need be (Most people don't even look at these, by the way). In a few weeks or maybe a month or two, people will get used to the change. Their faith has survived worse:

Imagine a scenario where a family shows up at Mass early on a Sunday morning during the season of Pentecost. They've fasted since midnight and put on their Sunday best. They are greeted with the news that they could have had ham and eggs for breakfast, the time of the year is nothing if not ordinary, and the priest faces them to say the Mass over a table with his back to a naked high altar.

Recite the newly translated Mass parts and responses with reverence; treat the people in the pews with dignity. They don't need audio guides and training booklets. They just need to be given some credit.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: