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Valerie SchultzNovember 19, 2011

Thinking I had to steel myself for the changes looming for the first Sunday of Advent was God’s joke on me, because the priest who presided over the Saturday evening Mass I just attended for the feast of Christ the King decided to go with the new translation one week early.

Glossy brochures in the pews clued us in with the new prayers and responses. Or perhaps I should say old prayers and responses. Certain words gave me flashbacks to my childhood: my First Communion class was one of the last years to receive the Eucharist in Latin. “Corpus Christi,” the priest said as he planted the Host on our waiting tongues, which my children now think of as a city in Texas. For a few moments during Mass tonight, the language made me feel like I was back in the Sixties. I could almost feel the bit of lace on my head, almost sense my mother’s frown at my faintest fidget. Nostalgia tinged my dismay.

I had read about the changes that were coming, of course, but when you actually have to say them, man, what a mouthful! ‘Consubstantial’, ‘incarnate of’, and the odd image of God entering ‘under my roof’.  Much as I dislike the awkwardness of the new Missal, changing it up made me ponder and see in a new light the responses I have been saying by rote all my adult life. What was I actually saying I believed? What is the true intent of a certain phrase? The discomfort of no longer having the Mass memorized was an invitation to rediscovery.

In the weeks and months ahead, we’re going to be writing about, complaining about, thinking about, arguing about, and praying about the re-translated Mass. I fear it will have the effect of showing a whole new generation the door, as younger Catholics search for relevant worship that connects them rather than distances them from experiencing God, for liturgy that speaks to them. But it also occurs to me that big weird words are the least of our problems as Church.  When we go along with political theories that posit that we are emphatically not our brother’s and sister’s keeper, or denounce the principles of Catholic social justice as socialism, or lobby for unjust laws that discriminate against our fellow human beings, or continue to churn with the scandal of sexual abuse of minors, maybe the language of the rituals inside our parishes is a small issue. Maybe squabbling about the words we are now using is not the battle that most needs choosing.  And just maybe, the message of Eucharistic love transcends our feeble constructs.

Valerie Schultz

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Beth Cioffoletti
10 years ago
And maybe these words we say at the Eucharist - that God is with us, and in us - will reach deeply into our hearts and awaken and enlighten the profound way in which we are related to our brothers and sisters, and we will not be afraid.
Anne Chapman
10 years ago
The ''new'' translation is actually very much like the first English translation that I remember after Vatican II, a sort of rushed, overly literal translation (they really spent 10 years on this?).  As Valerie notes, it might make those who sleepwalk through the mass wake up for a short while as they fumble for the ''right'' words. But, then it will become the familiar, it will be memorized, and it will be back to rote.

 The deep wrong of this translation is not the clumsiness of it, the awkardness of some of the words and phrasings, some translations that would have made my Latin teacher give me an ''F'', but the fact that Rome once again ignored its own processes in developing the translations and implementing it. It again decided that only a handful of male celibate clerics, without consultation with THE church, including the bishops' conferences, has the right to impose these changes by fiat. But that's how it works in imperial systems.

Are there more important things to worry about? Yes  indeed - which is why one wonders why Rome devoted ten years and countless man hours (not person hours, as I doubt any women had input into the new/old translation) when the church itself is facing major crises that are of its own making, and that it continues to ignore, while fiddling with the Latin. 

But, not all of the changes are basically innocuous - replacing one set of words with others that mean the same thing, albeit often more awkwardly. The removal of inclusive language should bother you Valerie. It should bother all of those who understand that women are equal to men, that complementary doesn't mean master (male)/servant(female), and that keeping women as official second-class citizens in the church, highlighted at every mass as the congregation affirms that Christ came for MEN, is a grave sin.  And this sin is among the roots of other sins the church has committed.

david power
10 years ago
Very well written piece.I enjoyed reading the nuances and conflicting thoughts that you went through.
Language is power and often one that is abused.I often feel that religion is worth giving a special language to.Our Language though is so exotic that it has made it ineffectual to reaching those who are uninitiated.We need a new dictionary . 
Sin="departure from destiny" according to Don Giussani. 
The problem is when our curiosity for words and definitions is overcome by a tidal wave of reality as is pojnted out near the end of the article. I read "Spirit of the Liturgy" by Pope Benedict and have to say that apart from a couple of brilliant insights regarding Plato and Ontology it is a real eye-opener into the trainspotter mentality of liturgists.They tend to separate the Mass from life.There is a subtle compartmentalization going on which of course must be denied by one and all.Can we imagine Jesus (as in the Gospel account) walking in on a catholic Mass today?.He would be like a hobo in manner and dress. I know that times and things change but surely we have lost a lot of the humanity of the original Last Supper. My favourite lines in the whole Mass, the only ones that I understand and send a shiver down my spine are "And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave to them, saying, ‘This is my body ". That piece of reported speech  justifies  all the rest of the non-sense they can dream up. 
Stanley Kopacz
10 years ago
I guess I can look forward to the return of the Thump.  You know, "through my fault (thump), through my fault (thump), through my most grievious fault (THUMP).  After a misspent youth playing brass instruments and a long lifetime of moderate weghtlifting, I intend to deliver an impressive simian-like thud to the pectoral muscles.  Since the Lord came to save men, the least we can do is do manly things.
Robert Dean
10 years ago
If you have a pacemaker, are you exempt from thumping?
Anne Chapman
10 years ago

So, Stanley, I guess everyone can look forward to all those manly Tarzans thumping their chests (and bellowing their simian best?). Perhaps this will appease some of those men who are wringing their hands in angst over the ''feminization'' of the church. Any photo of the various meetings in Rome (or in Baltimore) should be enough to reassure them that they are not in danger of becoming extinct yet (not a woman in sight in most of them, unless she is pouring water for the manly men in black or scarlet, or handing out notepads and pens. Proper roles for women all).

And now that more and more manly-men priests are banning girls from altar service, the chest-thumping men in the pews will be able to again look at the altar and see nobody but men and boys (but, really, if they are worried about the feminization of the church,maybe they should suggest to the priests and bishops and cardinals that all that silk and lace is rather, well, feminine.) All will be right in their manly-men worlds - women are being returned to their rightful place... step by step.....

 And  I suppose that all these  chest-thumping, bellowing manly-men will make a big enough scene at mass to make up for all the demure and feminine Janes in the pews, quietly touching their chests in a most lady-like way (does the GIRM spell out the gender appropriate gestures in detail, I wonder?).  

As David Power notes, language is power. And language can be misused, just as other forms of power can be misused.   

Dominus vobiscum!
ed gleason
10 years ago
Valerie says...'Maybe squabbling about the words we are now using is not the battle that most needs choosing.;; Just like the recent History Channel showing the fierce battle for hill 409 in some God forsaken part of Vietnam.. These Church battles are certainly not the Hill to die on... but some commander way back in the lines says .."GO at 6AM ' and to hell with the casualties.. '
Vince Killoran
10 years ago
We'll muddle through but "muddling" has its casualities.

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