Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I am writing in response to the invitation of The Most Reverend Donald W. Trautman, Bishop of Erie, printed in his May 12, 2007 article in America, to "speak up" regarding the English translations of the Roman Missal. While I appreciate the Bishop’s concern for the participation of the faithful in the Liturgy, I find the language of the prayers that he cites to be beautiful, inspiring, and a most eloquent and worthy linguistic expression of the splendor of the Catholic faith.
I believe that three essential considerations must be noted in this discussion of translations. First, the Christian Faith, which we celebrate in the Sacred Liturgy, is rich beyond compare and deserves a form of language that, despite the inadequacy of any human words to express the mysteries of faith, is the best means of transmitting those sublime mysteries. It makes no sense to use common language to express what is anything but ordinary. The words chosen for liturgical prayer should be our best words, our most eloquent constructions, the words of poetry. Of course liturgy should resonate with culture. Yet, it should be recognized that the authentic culture of English-speaking peoples is more than the language of every-day conversation. The Church has the opportunity to be instrumental in preserving that culture for future generations through her liturgical texts.
Second, we clergy should give our Catholic faithful the respect that they deserve. They are not incapable of grasping the complexities of the English language. Seeking the lowest common denominator in liturgical language, in order to ensure that the people understand every word, undermines the sense of mystery and the uniqueness of the Liturgy. I believe that the new prayers, in their beauty and depth, are just what our people need and will be joyfully accepted by those who hear them. The people are hungering for the truth of our Faith and for a deeper experience of the Church. They will welcome liturgical prayers with rich vocabulary. In those instances where a prayer is not easily comprehendible, there is a teachable moment, wherein a person can grow in his understanding of both the faith and his own mother tongue.
Third, prayers of rich vocabulary and complex syntax require particular attention in liturgical proclamation. Sentences filled with descriptive adjectives and segmented with dependent clauses need to be read slowly and with care. Furthermore, time should be devoted to rehearsing the prayers beforehand, especially when they are to be sung. This presents an additional challenge for the celebrant in his preparation for, and celebration of, the Sacred Liturgy. It is a challenge I welcome.
The new prayers of the Roman Missal will, in my own humble estimation, communicate the mysteries of faith in a new and more abundant manner. I believe we shall, as Catholic clergy and people, fall in love with their eloquence and through them be drawn ever deeper into the mysteries of our Faith. Having been invited to speak up, I say to the translators: "Keep up the good work." My prayers are with them.

2 comments:

Jerrod said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerrod said...

When these prayers are spoken and understood at the same time, they can give a much more meaningful experience with prayer and time alone in prayer with God. In that realm they serve as useful tools to have more of a personal relationship with God. I completely agree.
Today it is hard to get people to study their faith. I get my proof from divorce rate. There has to be a way where Catholics / Christians can start to digest these beautiful prayers on their own so that they can become as meaningful as you had mentioned.
The only thing that I worry about is their complexity, it may turn off potential walk-in Christians that happen to drop by the Catholic Church. Those Christians aren't centered around the meaningfulness and the beauty of the prayer.
Then again, I haven't read the prayers myself. :-)