accessible you

By Diogenes ( articles ) | May 30, 2007

In the May 21st number of America magazine (subscriber only), Bishop Donald Trautman criticizes the revised translation of the Mass soon headed our way. He cites a couple clunky examples from the draft version and contends that the result will be "inaccessible" to the faithful:

All liturgy is pastoral. If translated texts are to be the authentic prayer of the people, they must be owned by the people and expressed in the contemporary language of their culture. To what extent are the new prayers of the Missal truly pastoral? Do these new texts communicate in the living language of the worshiping assembly? How will John and Mary Catholic relate to the new words of the Creed: "consubstantial to the Father" and "incarnate of the Virgin Mary"? Will they understand these words from the various new Collects: "sullied," "unfeigned," "ineffable," "gibbet," "wrought," "thwart"?

No Christian liturgy, ever, has communicated "in the living language of the worshiping assembly" (fifth century Romans did not answer greetings in the street with a chirpy "and with your spirit"). But even were we to concede the accessibility point to Bishop Trautman, his concerns seem largely captious.

Now think: when was the last time you heard a liberal clergyman feel himself constrained to adhere to the approved liturgical texts against his inclinations? The 1974 Sacramentary, which is supposedly obligatory today, is "corrected" wherever and whenever the celebrant finds it wanting. "Pray, sisters and brothers ..." "For our bishop Wilton and for all who minister in your Church ..." "And free us from all unnecessary anxiety ..." Some congregations are more familiar with the deviations than with the norm.

The ironic and unlovely truth is that the only priest today likely to be faithful to the 1974 Sacramentary in celebrating Mass is a priest deeply contemptuous of the Missal from which he must declaim, for only a rigid conservative does not award himself the liberty to soften or sweeten or liven-up the Mass in conformity to political fashion and personal taste, and such a man will almost certainly find ICEL's semi-Pelagian theology distressing and its scout-prayer jauntiness a torment. They more they loathe it, the more punctiliously they do it right.

So lighten up, your Excellency. You've got three decades of bad habits working to your advantage. Even if you lose out here and there respecting the words Rome ultimately approves, the spirit of renewal, like a dog returning to its vomit, will trot back gratefully to yesterday's feeding.

All liturgy is pastoral.

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