Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Old Prayers, New Words

For four days now, Catholics in the United States (and other parts of the English-speaking world) have been getting used to a new English translation of the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal. Some of us (myself among them) have been looking forward for some time to this new, more literal translation, with its complex sentences and relative clauses - English as it used to be written and spoken in a pre-internet age. Some others have been apprehensive about it - whether out of fondness for the familiar translation in use for the past 40 years or because of objections of a more ideological nature. Still others are largely indifferent. For some, the introduction of this new translation has probably come as a surprise - despite the fact that it has been long in the making and has been the a major conversation topic within the US Church, as well as the subject of many diocesan and parochial programs throughout the US over course of the last year. Whether it comes as old news or as a surprise, however, and whether it is welcomed or resented, it is a change; and change is always a challenge – any change, but especially one that affects established habits such as the words of our prayers.

That said, I have been impressed by how easily the change has happened here. Of course, we had prepared. The new music had already been introduced; so that part of the Mass was already familiar. We had purchased pew cards with all the new lines the people need to learn; and they are being used! At the beginning of every Mass so far, I have been enormously edified to see people grabbing their pew cards and enthusiastically answering "And with your spirit"! Of course, it will take time for the responses to become second-nature. We will all absentmindedly lapse into an occasional "And also with you." But the line between past and future has been clearly drawn. It won't be long before "And also with you" is but a fading memory - an object of nostalgic humor, along with recollections of 1960s "folk Masses" and "clown Masses."

As someone who still talks at New York speed, I have been given an added gift by the new translation. Reciting long sentences of less familiar words, while trying not to lapse into the older formulas, forces me to speak more slowly - hence, hopefully, more reverently. Hopefully, that may translate into a longer lasting benefit for me as celebrant!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for a refreshingly hopeful and positive comment about the changes. I also think it is going well at IC and I noticed your speaking more slowly and thought it sounded more reverent as well as poetic.