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June 18, 2012

A Children’s Crusade

Re “Grading the Missal” (5/28): My fear is that the ancient rule “Lex orandi, lex credendi” (the rule of prayer is the rule of faith) will prove all too true, and we will begin to imagine and relate to the formal, distant deity enshrined in our liturgical language.

This is a particular concern with the young. I volunteer as a middle-school religious education teacher and also work with teen confirmands. I work very hard to help them develop a personal prayer life with a loving God they can trust and a vibrant God they can be excited about—one who cares about their lives and invites them to be co-creators and co-redeemers in refashioning the world and church.

Until Advent 2011 I felt I had a fighting chance of helping them to find that God at the Eucharist as well. How am I supposed to teach this abominable language without letting it influence the way they imagine and think about God?

Anne Maura English

Baltimore, Md.

Missal Strike

Thank you for a well-written, respectful and thorough commentary on the new missal translation. I agree with the whole of it. The new translation seems to have been designed to decrease any kind of active participation in the liturgy. It has been painful to watch people just seemingly drift off to...where? while the “prayers” go on, unheeded. If participation is meant to draw us to a serious union with Jesus and to the living out of his life and message wherever we are, this translation is guaranteed to make this impossible. When did driving people away from church become the goal of the powers that be? And how can we stop it?

Patricia Nicholson

Newburgh, N.Y.

Enforcing a Private Piety

Re: “What’s Next?” by the Rev. Michael Ryan (5/28): Three criteria for intelligent leadership are learning, experience and insight. Regarding the new missal, competency could be demonstrated using these three measures: (1) learning and the knowledge of Greek, Latin, English and some history of theology; (2) experience and demonstrable pastoral concern and skills; (3) insight from a heart practiced in prayer.

Those few responsible for making us pray their way demonstrate little learning and no pastoral skills. As for insight and prayer, I cannot believe anyone who really prays has prayed with the stilted officious language of the new missal. What’s happened is that a few in positions of power have imposed their own private piety on the rest of the world. Given the criteria I have outlined above, I don’t see any “next” until those few are forever singing in heaven, “Graciously grant, O merciful One, Holy, Almighty and Consubstantial....”

Jerome Knies, O.S.A.

Racine, Wis.

Otherworldly Realm

Father Ryan accurately expresses my personal thoughts and experiences with the new Mass texts. I have been unable even to raise the issue in conversations with other priests. It’s as though it cannot be discussed without appearing disloyal or suspect. What is the fear? Even more perplexing is the fact that there is no person or place where official pastoral concerns may be registered.

The laity, in my view, have too many other matters to face in their daily lives to be concerned with liturgical texts. If they expect homilies that make sense, however, why wouldn’t they want prayers that make sense?

How does the new missal, and the next generation of church folk, help achieve the “new evangelization” being called for by the pope? The answer to this critical challenge to the church is not in some restored past or in some otherworldly realm, which is “symbolized” for me in how priests are expected to lead God’s people in prayer these days.

(Msgr.) James Gaston

Lower Burrell, Pa.

Power and Control

As a presbyter I find the new missal language cumbersome, garbled, prolix and, most of all, otherworldly. It’s like I’m shifting into Elizabethan jargon (maybe that would be better?). In any event, this is not how I speak pastorally (or unpastorally) with parishioners, nor is it the language in which I preach my homilies. Kudos to Father Mike Ryan, always faithful and a man of integrity, to keep raising the question. Accept, I humbly beseech you, and graciously hear my plea, which in mortal frailty is all I can offer—that, of course, this is really not about language but about the need of Rome and our episcopacy for power and control.

(Rev.) Roger G. O’Brien

Lynnwood, Wash.

Austerity or Bust?

Re “Voting Out Austerity” (Editorial, 5/28): Tipping the scales of social justice requires more than pointing out who needs help and suggesting a short-term solution in the hope that sustainable remedies to long-term problems will emerge. Those “debt markets” that now charge very high rates of interest on Greek sovereign debt are real people concerned that the debt will not be repaid.

Yes, austerity has its discontents. But the Greek voters’ call for less austerity requires stewards of money, including the German government, to once again risk hard-earned currency in the hope of eventual reform. Every euro or dollar poured into the current morass is one less dollar available for investing in innovation. These fiscal stewardship challenges for the United States are not yet so acute, but they are just as real.

Joseph J. Dunn

Conshohocken, Pa.

Equal Opportunities

I join you in supporting the sisters in the wake of the Vatican’s doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (“Praise for Sisters,” Current Comment, 5/14). American sisters have been serving the poor in hospitals, schools, jails and homeless shelters; and they have worked generously and effectively in many parishes. They have also shown their respect for life by struggling against the death penalty, against nuclear arms and against the male chauvinism that frequently takes the lives of women in addition to harming them in many other ways.

What I find especially disappointing and troublesome in the Vatican’s pronouncement is a lack of respect for American religious women, who have devoted their (long) lives to ministry in the church, the service of the poor and participation in work for justice that, according to the Synod of Bishops in 1971 is “a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel.” But a lack of respect for the target of criticism and the absence of any real interest in dialogue have also characterized the Vatican’s attacks on many male theologians, thus establishing a kind of equal opportunity to be victimized.

Joseph E. Mulligan, S.J.

Managua, Nicaragua

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